New type of fractals discovered in magnetic ice

(ORDO NEWS) — Fractal patterns can be found everywhere, from snowflakes to lightning to jagged coastlines.

Beautiful to look at, their repetitive nature may also inspire mathematicians to understand the chaos of the physical landscape.

A new example of these mathematical oddities has been discovered in a type of magnetic substance known as spin ice can help us better understand how the bizarre behavior called the magnetic monopole arises from its unstable structure.

Spin ices are magnetic crystals that follow the same structural rules as water ice, with unique interactions determined by the spins of their electrons. rather than push and pull charges.

As a result of this activity, they do not have any single low-energy state of minimal activity. Instead, they hum almost noisily even in insanely cold temperatures.

Out of this quantum buzz emerges a strange phenomenon characteristics that act like magnets with only one pole.

While they’re not quite the hypothetical magnetic monopole particles that some physicists think might exist in nature, they behave similarly enough to make them worthy of study.

So an international team of researchers recently turned their attention to a spin ice called dysprosium titanate.

When a small amount of heat is applied to a material, its typical magnetic rules are broken and monopoles appear, with the north and south poles separating and acting independently.

A few years ago, a group of researchers determined the signature activity of magnetic monopoles. in the quantum hum of dysprosium titanate spin ice, but the results have left several questions about the exact nature of these monopole motions.

In this subsequent study, physicists realized that monopoles do not move with complete freedom in three dimensions. Instead, they were limited to a 2.53-dimensional plane inside a fixed lattice.

The scientists created complex atomic-scale models to show that the monopole’s movement was limited by a fractal structure that erased and rewritten based on conditions and previous movements.

“When we added this to our models, fractals immediately appeared,” says the physicist. Jonathan Hallen from the University of Cambridge.

“The configurations of rotations created a network along which the monopoles had to move. The network branched out like a fractal of exactly the right dimension.”

This dynamic behavior explains why fractals were not taken into account in conventional experiments in the past. It was the noise created around the monopoles that ultimately revealed what they actually did and the fractal structure they followed.

“We knew something really strange was going on,” says physicist Claudio Castelnovo of the university. Cambridge in the UK. “The results of 30 years of experiments did not match.”

“After several unsuccessful attempts to explain the results of noise, we finally realized that monopoles must live in a fractal world. and not move freely in three dimensions, as has always been assumed.”

Breakthroughs like these could lead to stepwise changes in the possibilities of science and how materials such as spin ices can be used: perhaps in spintronics, a new area of ​​research that could offer upgrades to the next generation of electronics we use today.

“In addition to explaining several puzzling experimental results that have challenged us for a long time, the discovery of a mechanism for the emergence of a new type of fractal has led to a completely unexpected path of unconventional motion in three dimensions,” says theoretical physicist Roderich Messner of the Institute for Physics of Complex Systems. Max Planck in Germany.


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