The transport of electrically charged quasiparticles (based on electrons, holes or ions) plays a pivotal role in modern technology as well as determining the essential function of biological organisms.
In contrast, the transport of magnetic charges has barely been explored experimentally, mainly because magnetic charges are generally considered to be, at most, convenient macroscopic parameters rather than sharply defined quasiparticles. However, the recent proposition of emergent magnetic monopoles in certain materials may change this point of view. We have dusted off a 1930’s theory of electrochemistry and applied it to demonstrate that in some materials there is a magnetic equivalent of electricity. In electricity, charges can be driven apart by the application of an electric field. We used muons to show that magnetic charges can be driven apart using magnetic fields, creating a magnetic current.
SR Giblin (ISIS), ST Bramwell, S Calder, R Aldus (University College London), D Prabhakaran (Oxford University), and T Fennel (ILL)
Research date: October 2009
Contact: SR Giblin, email@example.com
Further information: ST Bramwell et al., Nature 461 (2009) 956