The Environment Matters--Even on the Atomic Scale

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Science  15 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5695, pp. 423-425
DOI: 10.1126/science.1103196

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High-density magnetic memories require increasing knowledge and control of magnetic excitations. In his Perspective, Bode highlights the report by Heinrich et al., who use a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to elucidate spin-flips of individual magnetic atoms dispersed onto a nonmagnetic matrix and exposed to an external magnetic field. Because spin-flip excitations can degrade the performance of high-density memories, this type of study may be essential for the future progress of magnetic data storage technologies. Extensions of the new method--such as spin-polarized inelastic STM--may allow other magnetic excitations to be studied.