Top Tech 2013 Day 19: Spintronics

Spintronics is the usage of an electron’s spin instead of or in addition to the charge for devices-commonly computing purposes. A subset of this would be quantum computing, discussed previously this month. Spintronics is an exciting technology due to the magnitude speed-up and capability increase it could mean for computing power. Among other properties, the use of spin would allow for four, instead of two, basic states measured.

There have been a number of exciting discovering in spintronics in the last year, of which we’ll touch the high points.

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have shown in simulation that if you ‘fold’ a 2D graphene sheet into certain geometries (similar to graphene) and expose it to a magnetic field, it develops a bandgap. Just as exciting, however, is the fact that it produces a spin polarized current, ideal for spintronic devices. Among the other wonderful properties of graphene, many scientists are excited about it for spintronic purposes due to the minimal spin dissipation inherent in the material. Researchers also showed that manufacturing techniques were feasible. More information can be found here.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new dilute magnetic semiconductor, strontium tin oxide, that could be used to create transistors that work at room temperature off of magnetic fields, instead of electrical current. Unlike prior dilute magnetic semiconductors, this new material can be synthesized as a single crystal on silicon. More information can be found here.

Other researchers (Harvard, London Center for Nanotechnology) have developed new methodologies and materials to increase the length of spin coherence. When placed in a magnetic resonance spectrometer, the copper phtalocyanine based dye aligned the spin of the copper atoms, creating spin ‘bits’. At -450 degress Fahrenheit (5 degrees Kelvin), the spins stayed parallel for 59 milliseconds, much longer than previous experiments.

For additional interesting reading, a paper describing routes to quantum computing (spintronics among them) can be found here.