Elusive spintronics success could lead to single chip for processing and memory

Dec 07, 2010
Dr Alan Drew

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London (UK) and the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) have shown that a magnetically polarised current can be manipulated by electric fields.

Published this week in the journal , this important discovery opens up the prospect of simultaneously processing and storing data on electrons held in the molecular structure of - combining and processing power on the same chip.

"This is especially exciting, as this discovery has been made with flexible organic semiconductors, which are set to be the new generation of displays for mobile devices, TVs and computer monitors, and could offer a step-change in and reduced weight of these devices," said Dr Alan Drew, from Queen Mary's School of Physics, who led the research.

'Spintronics' - spin transport electronics - has rapidly become the universally used technology for computer hard disks. Designed in thin layers of magnetic and non-magnetic materials, Giant Magnetoresistive (GMR) spin valves use the magnetic properties, or 'spin', of electrons to detect computer data stored in magnetic bits. In contrast, computer processing relies on streams of electrically charged electrons flowing around a tiny circuit etched into a microchip.

Dr Drew and his team have investigated how layers of Lithium Fluoride (LiF) - a material that has an intrinsic electric field - can modify the spin of electrons transported through these spin valves. He explains: "While in theory, devices that combine electron charge and spin are conceptually straightforward, this is the first time anybody has shown it is possible to proactively control spin with electric fields."

Professor Christian Bernhard, from the University of Fribourg Physics Department, describes their successful technique: "Using the direct spectroscopic technique Low Energy Muon Spin Rotation (LE-μSR), our experiments have visualised the extracted spin polarisation close to buried interfaces of a spin valve."

The experiments were performed at the Paul Scherrer Institute, the only institution worldwide; where this technique is available. The method employs the of muons - unstable subatomic particles. "In such an experiment the muons are shot into the material and when they decay, the decay products carry information about the magnetic processes inside the material," explains Professor Elvezio Morenzoni from PSI, where the technique has been developed. "The unique thing about low energy muons is that they can be placed specifically in a particular layer of a multi-layer system. Thus using this method one can study the magnetism in any single layer separately."

Explore further: The hemihelix: Scientists discover a new shape using rubber bands (w/ video)

More information: The paper "Engineering spin propagation across a hybrid organic/inorganic interface using a polar layer" is authored by L. Schulz, L. Nuccio, M.Willis, P. Desai, P. Shakya, T. Kreouzis, V. K. Malik, C. Bernhard, F. L. Pratt, N. A. Morley, A. Suter, G. J. Nieuwenhuys, T. Prokscha, E. Morenzoni,W. P. Gillin and A. J. Drew.

Related Stories

Spin-polarized electrons on demand

Jan 21, 2009

Many hopes are pinned on spintronics. In the future it could replace electronics, which in the race to produce increasingly rapid computer components, must at sometime reach its limits. Different from electronics, where whole ...

Spin-polarized electrons on demand

Jan 15, 2009

Many hopes are pinned on spintronics. In the future it could replace electronics, which in the race to produce increasingly rapid computer components, must at sometime reach its limits. Different from electronics, where whole ...

Spintronic transistor is developed

Oct 23, 2005

Researcher Christian Schoenenberger and colleagues at the University of Basel, Switzerland, developed a carbon nanotube transistor, opening a promising avenue toward the introduction of spin-based devices into computer chips, ...

Spin polarization achieved in room temperature silicon

Nov 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A group in The Netherlands has achieved a first: injection of spin-polarized electrons in silicon at room temperature. This has previously been observed only at extremely low temperatures, ...

Physicists put a new spin on electrons

Apr 15, 2009

In the first demonstration of its kind, researchers at the University of British Columbia have controlled the spin of electrons using a ballistic technique--bouncing electrons through a microscopic channel of precisely constructed, ...

Recommended for you

Imaging turns a corner

50 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —Scientists have developed a new microscope which enables a dramatically improved view of biological cells.

Mapping the road to quantum gravity

14 hours ago

The road uniting quantum field theory and general relativity – the two great theories of modern physics – has been impassable for 80 years. Could a tool from condensed matter physics finally help map ...

Steering chemical reactions with laser pulses

22 hours ago

With ultra-short laser pulses, chemical reactions can be controlled at the Vienna University of Technology. Electrons have little mass and are therefore influenced by the laser, whereas the atomic nuclei ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

holoman
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Spintronics will allow 3D optical data storage as
shown by http://colossalstoragel.net

Once successful spintronics can get out of the
lab expect to see a great many changes to
existing technologies.

More news stories

Phase transiting to a new quantum universe

(Phys.org) —Recent insight and discovery of a new class of quantum transition opens the way for a whole new subfield of materials physics and quantum technologies.

Imaging turns a corner

(Phys.org) —Scientists have developed a new microscope which enables a dramatically improved view of biological cells.

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

Sensors may keep hospitalized patients from falling

(Medical Xpress)—To keep hospitalized patients safer, University of Arizona researchers are working on new technology that involves a small, wearable sensor that measures a patient's activity, heart rate, ...