Monopoles, magnetic forces without a di-pole have been shown to exist in a substance called spin ice. Spin ice is composed of holmium titanate, molecules that have a tetrahedral formation. When corralled, the ions cannot align their spin in one direction leaving the two spins pointing inwards in the tetrahedron. When a magnetic field is applied to this compound, the frustrated ions do not know where to go. Therefore, instead of increasing steadily like in iron, the magnetism suddenly jumps up. In another words, the external field causes the internal configuration’s spin to dramatically change. Because of these changes, spin-flipping in the tetrahedron lattice causes magnetic charges (monopoles) to freely move about within the structure.
This finding may eventually be useful when it comes to making faster and more flexible memory systems for computers. Computers usually store information magnetically and electric charges are used to read and write bits to and from these stores. Using a magnetic charge with a 3-dimensional configuration like those seen in the spin ice would allow for memories of much higher density than what is currently possible.
This new technology will most likely become very important in the area of bioinformatics, the field of science in which biology, computer science, and information technology merge to form one discipline. The goal of the field is to discover new biological insights and unifying principles.