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Studying a Single-Atom Magnet

Researchers at Cornell University are trying to understand the subtle interactions between magnetic materials and electrical currents by interrogating the smallest magnet possible — a single atom. In their experiments, a single magnetic nitrogen atom (blue in the diagram) is first trapped in a protective cage made of 60 carbon atoms (C60, black in diagram). The cage is then suspended between two tiny platinum electrodes. The scientists probe the response of the caged atom to electrical currents and magnetic fields. By watching single electrons hop on and off the system as a magnetic field is applied, the magnetic properties of the molecule can be quantified and controlled.  Single magnetic molecules such as the one studied here may enable new types of high-density information storage (e.g., magnetic computer memory) or a new class of ultrasmall, but extremely powerful, computers (so-called J. E. Grose, E. S. Tam, C. Timm, M. Scheloske, B. Ulgut, J. J. Parks, H. D. Abruàƒ’±a, W. Harneit, and D. C. Ralph, "Tunneling spectra of individual magnetic endofullerene molecules" (submitted)." />