Scientists have taken a step towards the creation of powerful devices that harness magnetic charge by creating the first ever three-dimensional replica of a material known as a spin-ice.
Spin ice materials are extremely unusual as they possess so-called defects which behave as the single pole of a magnet.
These single pole magnets, also known as magnetic monopoles, do not exist in nature; when every magnetic material is cut into two it will always create a new magnet with a north and south pole.
For decades scientists have been looking far and wide for evidence of naturally occurring magnetic monopoles in the hope of finally grouping the fundamental forces of nature into a so-called theory of everything, putting all of physics under one roof.
However, in recent years physicists have managed to produce artificial versions of a magnetic monopole through the creation of two-dimensional spin-ice materials.
To date these structures have successfully demonstrated a magnetic monopole, but it is impossible to obtain the same physics when the material is confined to a single plane. Indeed, it is the specific three-dimensional geometry of the spin-ice lattice that is key to its unusual ability to create tiny structures that mimic magnetic monopoles.
In a new study published today in Nature Communications, a team led by scientists at Cardiff University have created the first ever 3D replica of a spin-ice material using a sophisticated type of 3D printing and processing.
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