Detecting the spin of a single electron in a standard silicon transistor

Aug 10, 2004

University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and at the University of California, Los Angeles have demonstrated the ability to detect the spin of a single electron in a standard silicon transistor. The advance could help facilitate the direct, rather than theoretical, study of the physics of electron spin decoherence, which is a critical step toward manipulating and monitoring the spin of a single electron.

Decoherence is the process in which objects of the quantum world -- like electrons -- lose their wavelike characteristics by interacting with the surrounding environment. Electron spin control could be crucial for the creation of nanoscale electronics, the magnetic resonance imaging of single molecules and the development of quantum computers.

In research reported in a recent issue of the journal Nature, Los Alamos scientist Ivar Martin, along with his UCLA colleagues Ming Xaio, Eli Yablonovitch and HongWen Jiang, detected electrically the spin resonance of a single electron in the gate oxide of a standard silicon transistor. The spin orientation of the electron was converted to an electrical charge, which was then measured using a device called a Field effect transistor, or FET. An FET can sense current changes in electrostatic charge.

According to Martin, who developed the theory for the effect together with Los Alamos postdoctoral researcher Dima Mozyrsky, "We believe this is a significant advance in the field of quantum physics. The more that the fields of science and engineering learn about the enigmatic physics of electron spin, the more we will be able to use that knowledge in the future to create nanoscale technologies like spin electronic and quantum computers, that are based on electron spin control."

The discovery sets the stage for the practical study of single electron spin physics using test transistors in conventional, commercial silicon integrated circuits. Electron spins in semiconductors have proven particularly attractive for such studies because of their long decoherence times.

In addition, single electron spin resonance opens new opportunities in surface science by allowing researchers to individually study single defects and their environments at the semiconductor-insulator interfaces. This may lead to applications in semiconductor technology where design of reliable devices with ever decreasing feature sizes requires detailed understanding of the interfaces at the nanoscale.


Explore further: Researchers create 3-D stereoscopic color prints with nanopixels

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Keeping hydrogen from cracking metals

Oct 28, 2014

Metal alloys such as steel and zirconium that are used in pipes for nuclear reactors and oil fields naturally acquire a protective oxide or sulfide layer. But hydrogen penetration can lead to their breakdown ...

Recommended for you

Thin film produces new chemistry in 'nanoreactor'

Nov 19, 2014

Physicists of the University of Groningen and the FOM Foundation, led by professor Beatriz Noheda, have discovered a new manganese compound that is produced by tension in the crystal structure of terbium manganese oxide. ...

A gut reaction

Nov 19, 2014

Queen's University biologist Virginia Walker and Queen's SARC Awarded Postdoctoral Fellow Pranab Das have shown nanosilver, which is often added to water purification units, can upset your gut. The discovery ...

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.