'Magnetricity' behaves like electricity | Science News

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'Magnetricity' behaves like electricity

Currents of monopole-like magnetic charges act much like electricity

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1:14pm, February 13, 2011
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Electricity has a new little sister: magnetricity.

A team of physicists in England has created magnetic charges — isolated north and south magnetic poles — and induced them to flow in crystals no bigger than a centimeter across. These moving magnetic charges, which behave almost exactly like electrical charges flowing through batteries and biological systems, could one day be useful in developing “magnetronic” devices — though what such devices would do is anybody’s guess.

In magnets, poles always come in pairs. No matter how many times you cut a magnet in half, down to the atoms themselves, each piece will always have a north and a south — a dipole.

But the magnetic molecules that make up a crystalline material called spin ice are arranged in triangular pyramids that prevent them from lining up comfortably with all of their poles pointing in the same direction.
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