Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Monopole!
Lyle Lanley: What's it called?
Lyle Lanley: That's right! Monopole!
Scientists have captured the first direct images of magnetic monopoles which were theoretically conceived by the British-Swiss physicist Dirac in the early 1930s who showed that their existence is consistent with the ultimate theory of matter – quantum theory.
The image at the right represents a 12 micrometer x 12 micrometer chunk of artificial magnetic metamaterial where monopoles can be seen at each end of the Dirac strings, visible as dark lines. The dark regions correspond to magnetic islands where the magnetization is reversed. (Image courtesy of Paul Scherrer Institute)
Quasi-Monopoles were first observed in 2009. They weren't true monopoles, just arrangements of molecules under certain conditions that behaved, um, monopolistically.
Jonathan Morris, Alan Tennant and colleagues (HZB) undertook a neutron scattering experiment at the Berlin research reactor. The material under investigation was a single crystal of Dysprosium Titanate. This material crystallises in a quite remarkable geometry, the so called pyrochlore-lattice. With the help of neutron scattering Morris and Tennant show that the magnetic moments inside the material had reorganised into so-called 'spin-spaghetti'. This name comes from the ordering of the dipoles themselves, such that a network of contorted tubes (strings) develops, through which magnetic flux is transported. These can be made visible by their interaction with the neutrons which themselves carry a magnetic moment. Thus the neutrons scatter as a reciprocal representation of the Strings.
Image of Dirac String "Spin Spaghetti" (Credit: HZB / D.J.P. Morris & A. Tennant)
So.. what's the Big Deal, if independent monopoles can be formed?
From Applications of Magnetic Monopoles by Hans P. Moravec (1979):
Monopole technology - Magnetic monopoles are predicted by some quantum field theories of atomic forces. Although they have not been found yet, there is good reason for that since they would be very heavy and therefore hard to make. If they could be made in quantity, there would be a complete revolution in our technology. Efficient electric motors, high density energy storage, high temperature superconductors, ultra-strong fibers and armor plate, and high density matter, are just a few of the many possibilities.Of course there's a little matter of getting them into large-scale production, making monopolium etc. That problem might take some time to solve - maybe tens of thousands of years. The thing is - if we can separate them from the lattice (something that may be as difficult as extracting the electron holes from transistors ie impossible by definition), those applications are possibilities now. Inevitabilities, unless we get zapped by an errant dirty snowball in the meantime.
Combined with increased attraction due to the magnetic quantum being (68.5)^2 as strong as electric, the tensile strength of monopolium is (2,000,000)^4x(68.5)^2 = 10^29 as high as normal.
The strength to weight ratio is thus about 10 million times as high.
This reflects the fact that monopole chemistry is a energetic per unit mass as nuclear fusion and fission of conventional matter.
The first quantum jump in a monopole electron orbital involves a hard gamma ray. Thus at mild temperatures (anything less than a million degrees, say), monopolium should be a potential superfluid, superconductor, etc.
It should be possible to overlay structures of conventional matter with a thin (very very thin) veneer of monopolium to protect them against virtually everything except a projectile of monopolium moving at very nearly the speed of light. (general products hulls!).
Superconducting monopole mirrors probably reflect everything up to the the energy of proton-antiproton anihilation gamma rays.
The extreme density permits very small and very fast (about 10 million times as fast as conventional) monopole integrated circuits and computers. The RF frequencies involved would be in the gamma ray range.