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Magnetic devices like hard drives, magnetic random access memories (MRAMs), molecular magnets, and quantum computers depend on the manipulation of magnetic properties. In an atom, magnetism arises from the spin and orbital momentum of its electrons. 'Magnetic anisotropy' describes how an atom's magnetic properties depend on the orientation of the electrons' orbits relative to the structure of a material. It also provides directionality and stability to magnetization. Publishing in Science, researchers led by EPFL combine various experimental and computational methods to measure for the first time the energy needed to change the magnetic anisotropy of a single Cobalt atom. Their methodology and findings can impact a range of fields from fundamental studies of single atom and single molecule magnetism to the design of spintronic device architectures.

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