In particle theory, the skyrmion (//) is a hypothetical particle related originally to baryons. It was described by Tony Skyrme in 1962 and consists of a quantum superposition of baryons and resonance states. It could be predicted from some nuclear matter properties.
Skyrmions as topological objects are important in solid state physics, especially in the emerging technology of spintronics. A two-dimensional magnetic skyrmion, as a topological object, is formed, e.g., from a 3D effective-spin "hedgehog" (in the field of micromagnetics: out of a so-called "Bloch point" singularity of homotopy degree +1) by a stereographic projection, whereby the positive north-pole spin is mapped onto a far-off edge circle of a 2D-disk, while the negative south-pole spin is mapped onto the center of the disk. In a spinor field such as for example photonic or polariton fluids the skyrmion topology corresponds to a full Poincaré beam (which is, a quantum vortex of spin comprising all the states of polarization).
In field theory, skyrmions are homotopically non-trivial classical solutions of a nonlinear sigma model with a non-trivial target manifold topology – hence, they are topological solitons. An example occurs in chiral models of mesons, where the target manifold is a homogeneous space of the structure group
where SU(N)L and SU(N)R are the left and right parts of the SU(N) matrix, and SU(N)diag is the diagonal subgroup.
is equivalent to the ring of integers, with the congruence sign referring to homeomorphism.
A topological term can be added to the chiral Lagrangian, whose integral depends only upon the homotopy class; this results in superselection sectors in the quantised model. A skyrmion can be approximated by a soliton of the Sine-Gordon equation; after quantisation by the Bethe ansatz or otherwise, it turns into a fermion interacting according to the massive Thirring model.
Magnetic materials/data storage
One particular form of skyrmions is magnetic skyrmions, found in magnetic materials that exhibit spiral magnetism due to the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction, double-exchange mechanism or competing Heisenberg exchange interactions. They form "domains" as small as 1 nm (e.g. in Fe on Ir(111)). The small size and low energy consumption of magnetic skyrmions make them a good candidate for future data storage solutions and other spintronics devices. Researchers could read and write skyrmions using scanning tunneling microscopy. The topological charge, representing the existence and non-existence of skyrmions, can represent the bit states "1" and "0". Room temperature skyrmions were reported.
Skyrmions operate at current densities that are several orders of magnitude weaker than conventional magnetic devices. In 2015 a practical way to create and access magnetic skyrmions under ambient room-temperature conditions was announced. The device used arrays of magnetized cobalt disks as artificial Bloch skyrmion lattices atop a thin film of cobalt and palladium. Asymmetric magnetic nanodots were patterned with controlled circularity on an underlayer with perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA). Polarity is controlled by a tailored magnetic field sequence and demonstrated in magnetometry measurements. The vortex structure is imprinted into the underlayer's interfacial region via suppressing the PMA by a critical ion-irradiation step. The lattices are identified with polarized neutron reflectometry and have been confirmed by magnetoresistance measurements.
- At later stages the model was also related to mesons.
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- Chiral models stress the difference between "left-handedness" and "right-handedness".
- The same classification applies to the mentioned effective-spin "hedgehog" singularity": spin upwards at the northpole, but downward at the southpole.
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- Developments in Magnetic Skyrmions Come in Bunches, IEEE Spectrum 2015 web article