Researchers exploring twisted magnetic fields for miniature hard drives

Bet you wouldn't have guessed that the answer to more efficient storage might exist in a Chubby Checker song. Yep, by doing the twist, scientists are thinking it'll be possible to store up to 20 times more data in the same space, which could lead to much smaller (or vastly more spacious) hard drives for consumers. The work revolves around twisted magnetic fields known as skyrmions, which can retain their structure even when packed very densely. In the latest development, Kristen von Bergmann and her team at the University of Hamburg have figured out how to deliberately write and erase skyrmions, which is a first for the scientific community. The method relies on a scanning tunneling microscope, which applies spin polarization to a current of electrons that are stored on a magnetic surface. The technology is nowhere near ready for consumer use -- it's currently around 60 percent reliable, and requires an ambient temperature that's on par with liquid helium -- but it's worth keeping an eye on as development progresses. After all, few scientific breakthroughs pair so nicely with classics of the dance floor.