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Small Objects of attraction

The development of a new type of microprocessor using magnetic fields rather than the electronic versions used today has captured the imagination of the media. With the promise of even lighter and smaller computers and mobile phones, a major breakthrough in the technology behind the electronics industry is forecast.

Mark Welland, the Head of the Nanoscale Science Laboratory in the Department of Engineering explains, "We are essentially engineering with atoms. The whole process of fabricating and understanding structures becomes exponentially more difficult as things get smaller."

The breakthrough came, as it often does in Cambridge, as a result of the meeting of minds. Dr Russell Cowburn came to work at Engineering from the Cavendish, bringing with him an expertise in magnetism. This combined with the expertise in nanofabrication already present in the Nanoscale Science Laboratory meant that the researchers were able to fabricate magnetic dots of a size down to 10nm, and then determine their magnetic properties.

Nanoscale magnetic dots inside the magnetic microchip. Each dot communicates with its neighbours through magnetic fields. 10 billion of these dots could fit inside a single microchip.