New magnetic semiconductor material holds promise for 'spintronics'

Sep 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: New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

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

Feb 13, 2013

(Phys.org)—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 ...

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

Breakthrough in OLED technology

3 hours ago

Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), which are made from carbon-containing materials, have the potential to revolutionize future display technologies, making low-power displays so thin they'll wrap or fold ...

Throwing light on a mysterious human 'superpower'

6 hours ago

Most people, at some point in their lives, have dreamt of being able to fly like Superman or develop superhuman strength like the Hulk. But very few know that we human beings have a "superpower" of our own, ...

New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

Feb 27, 2015

University of Utah engineers have discovered a new approach for designing filters capable of separating different frequencies in the terahertz spectrum, the next generation of communications bandwidth that ...

The super-resolution revolution

Feb 27, 2015

Cambridge scientists are part of a resolution revolution. Building powerful instruments that shatter the physical limits of optical microscopy, they are beginning to watch molecular processes as they happen, ...

User comments : 0

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.