For decades, researchers have been searching for magnetic monopoles — isolated magnetic charges, which can move around freely in the same way as electrical charges. Magnetic poles normally only occur in pairs. Now a team of researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland and University College Dublin has managed to create monopoles in the form of quasiparticles in an assembly of nanoscale magnets and to observe how they move using a microscope at the Swiss Light Source (SLS) to make the magnetic structures visible.
As with the elementary monopoles, which were first predicted by the British physicist Paul Dirac in 1931, each monopole is connected by a "string" to a monopole of opposite charge. The two monopoles can nevertheless move independently of each other. These results are not only of scientific interest, but could also provide a basis for the development of future electronic devices. The results are published online in the journal Nature Physics (Oct. 17, 2010).