Scientists Create "Magnetricity"—Magnetic Charge That Flows Like Electricity

By Eliza Strickland | October 15, 2009 1:41 pm

magnetricity-2Magnets may have seemed simple when you learned about them in elementary school, but physicists are coaxing some very odd behaviors out of magnetic materials these days. In the latest new development, scientists created the magnetic equivalent of electricity and named the phenomenon “magnetricity.” In the same way that electrically charged particles flow to create an electric current, individual north and south magnetic poles have been observed flowing along to generate a magnetic current.

The basis of the experiment was a refutation of a rule of magnetism observed in our day-to-day lives: No matter how many times you divide a magnet, the resulting fragments will always have both north and south poles. But more than 70 years ago, physicist Paul Dirac theorized that elementary particles should exist that have only a north or south pole, and dubbed these theoretical particles magnetic monopoles. Last month, researchers got closer to spotting a monopole than ever before, when they created ripples that had the same magnetic properties as monopoles.

The new study, published in Nature, describes the phenomenon in a strange, crystalline material known as spin ice. These crystals are made up of pyramids of charged atoms, or ions, arranged in such a way that when cooled to exceptionally low temperatures, the materials show tiny, discrete packets of magnetic charge. Now one of those teams has gone on to show that these “quasi-particles” of magnetic charge can move together, forming a magnetic current just like the electric current formed by moving electrons [BBC News].

To study the phenomenon in greater detail, the research team injected muons – short-lived cousins of electrons – into the spin ice. When the muons decayed, they emitted positrons in directions influenced by the magnetic field inside the spin ice. This revealed that the monopoles were not only present but were moving [New Scientist]. The ripples of distinct north or south charges moved about at random until a magnetic field was applied, which caused the charges to flow through the crystal as a current.

This may seem like fairly abstract research, but physicist Steven Bramwell swears that it could have practical applications–they’ll just be a ways down the road. Data is stored on computer hard discs by magnetising their surfaces in patterns that represent 1s and 0s. Bramwell speculates that monopoles could one day be used as a much more compact form of memory than anything available today, given that the monopoles are only about the size of an atom. “It is in the early stages, but who knows what the applications of magnetricity could be in 100 years time,” he says [New Scientist].

Related Content:
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Image: ISIS. Atom-sized north and south poles in spin ice drift in opposite directions when a magnetic field is applied.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Feature, Physics & Math
  • JD

    Sounds cool. I’ll take one of those monopole hard drives to go with my mousepad material monitor.

  • katesisco

    I was always curious about how magnetism works; a magnetic field is electricity in motion. Thanks to you intrepid investigative reporters who translate PhD into Info for Dummies. Some many times I now see under a statement of science that ‘we do not completely understand,’ or ‘the process is incompletely understood,’ and now I see why.

    And always under everything is the fact that water wants to be ice.

  • LarvaMaster

    I don´t know why my mind screams “Aereal Locomotion” and “brain interfacing”…

  • tomulcak

    To katesisco: The essence of science IS: “‘we do not completely understand,’ or ‘the process is incompletely understood,’”. If we understood everything, there would be no need for science. Science is always discovery.

  • http://n/a william eigen

    ah, katesisco. Thanks for that “Frosty” reminder. Steam might be H2Os’ first alternative, under appropriate conditions, of course. All three of your comments, above, give me hope for life right here on the “blue” orb. With 7 Grandchildren, I find the thought comforting. Science and Life–“always discovery”. Spicing our existence nicely.

  • http://n/a william eigen

    Again, thanks , Folks.

  • Ron Bennett

    A lot of scientist gave up hope of every finding the magnetic monopoles and claim that they don’t exist. Magnetic monopole computer storage is one thing but if magnetic monopoles do prove to exist then current understanding of quantum theory and the science of cosmology will be turned up-side down…

  • Leedskalnin

    Not new to me!! 😀

    Edward Leedskalnin many years ago showed magnetic monopoles EXISTs!! In his book Magnetic Current he showed electricity is nothing more than Magnetic Current and electrons has nothing to do with Electricity and name it MAGNETICITY instead of electricity. Glad to see science is now find out that magnetic monopoles exist.

  • Steve Sleep

    I’m a Musician and artist,but have a huge fascination with all aspects of physic. but my math was terrible and it stopped me from going into the fields, so I chose the much more Lucrative fiels of ‘Avant-garde’ art, but experimentation is at the core of what I do.(Lucrative..Hehehe…I’m Broke…) anyhow, The concept of magnetice flow is truly fascinating, and the Fist random I deas that pop into mind are, Super-analog recording, how could this efect things like speakers, and guitar pickups, and the awesome interior-psychic picture of such a pristine act as the movement of magnetism like electricity, if I could only show you…this is a great concept and I hpe that this subject will be talked about …
    also: What, if any effect does this have on the discovery of just what the Hell gravity is? Man I hope we can get that one figured out.. I want Hover-Mobiles and anti-grav shoes… LOL!

  • Steve Sleep

    Sorry for the spelling mistakes, my excitement got the best of me!

  • Frank

    Yeah Larvamaster, locomotion via magnetricity!

    You could charge the hull of a boat or sub to help it glide thru water with less resistance and less barnacles.

    Fat kids everywhere can get on an all day see-saw and not break a sweat!

  • ThisIsATrueStory

    Sounds like Ed Leedskalnin

  • Elena Ornig

    I think I’ve invented a perpetual motion device. I did this seven years ago but have been too embarrassed to go against everything I have understood as scientific fact, to go public.

    I believe I’ve shown that it works on paper – but I know it can’t work. Clearly I did something wrong. I approached a fellow engineer; I gave him the parameters and asked that he do some analysis; I didn’t give him the results. He analysed and came up with the same results.

    The challenge I pose is this:

    Please look at what I’ve done and tell me why it wouldn’t work. [Follow the Calculations Link to check my work, follow the Independent Verification Link to check the computer analysis]. Surely there are scientists and mathematicians that can prove me wrong; do it as an intellectual challenge!
    You can find it all under EXPERTS page at Real People Real Answers (.au)


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