New magnetic semiconductor material holds promise for 'spintronics'

September 10, 2013

Researchers at North Carolina State University have created a new compound that can be integrated into silicon chips and is a dilute magnetic semiconductor – meaning that it could be used to make "spintronic" devices, which rely on magnetic force to operate, rather than electrical currents.

The researchers synthesized the new compound, strontium (Sr3SnO), as an epitaxial thin film on a silicon chip. Epitaxial means the material is a single crystal. Because Sr3SnO is a dilute magnetic semiconductor, it could be used to create transistors that operate at room temperature based on magnetic fields, rather than .

"We're talking about cool transistors for use in spintronics," says Dr. Jay Narayan, John C. Fan Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work. "Spintronics" refers to technologies used in solid-state devices that take advantage of the inherent "spin" in electrons and their related magnetic momentum.

"There are other materials that are dilute , but researchers have struggled to integrate those materials on a , which is essential for their use in multifunctional, smart devices," Narayan says. "We were able to synthesize this material as a single crystal on a ."

"This moves us closer to developing spin-based devices, or spintronics," says Dr. Justin Schwartz, co-author of the paper, Kobe Steel Distinguished Professor and Department Head of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at NC State. "And learning that this material has magnetic semiconductor properties was a happy surprise."

The researchers had set out to create a material that would be a topological insulator. In topological insulators the bulk of the material serves as an , but the surface can act as a highly conductive material – and these properties are not easily affected or destroyed by defects in the material. In effect, that means that a topological insulator material can be a conductor and its own insulator at the same time.

Two materials are known to be topological insulators – bismuth telluride and bismuth selenide. But theorists predicted that other materials may also have topological insulator properties. Sr3SnO is one of those theoretical materials, which is why the researchers synthesized it. However, while early tests are promising, the researchers are still testing the Sr3SnO to confirm whether it has all the characteristics of a topological insulator.

Explore further: Researchers demonstrate and explain surface conduction in a topological insulator

More information: The paper, "Epitaxial integration of dilute magnetic semiconductor Sr3SnO with Si (001)," was published online Sept. 9 in Applied Physics Letters.

Related Stories

Engineers show feasibility of superfast materials

February 13, 2013

(—University of Utah engineers demonstrated it is feasible to build the first organic materials that conduct electricity on their edges, but act as an insulator inside. These materials, called organic topological ...

Researchers forward quest for quantum computing

May 23, 2013

Research teams from UW-Milwaukee and the University of York investigating the properties of ultra-thin films of new materials are helping bring quantum computing one step closer to reality.

Recommended for you

A quantum of light for materials science

December 1, 2015

Computer simulations that predict the light-induced change in the physical and chemical properties of complex systems, molecules, nanostructures and solids usually ignore the quantum nature of light. Scientists of the Max-Planck ...

Quantum dots used to convert infrared light to visible light

December 1, 2015

(—A team of researchers at MIT has succeeded in creating a double film coating that is able to convert infrared light at modest intensities into visible light. In their paper published in the journal Nature Photonics, ...

Test racetrack dipole magnet produces record 16 tesla field

November 30, 2015

A new world record has been broken by the CERN magnet group when their racetrack test magnet produced a 16.2 tesla (16.2T) peak field – nearly twice that produced by the current LHC dipoles and the highest ever for a dipole ...

Turbulence in bacterial cultures

November 30, 2015

Turbulent flows surround us, from complex cloud formations to rapidly flowing rivers. Populations of motile bacteria in liquid media can also exhibit patterns of collective motion that resemble turbulent flows, provided the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.