Spin-polarized electrons on demand

January 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 electrons are moved, here it is a matter of manipulating a certain property of the electron, its spin. For this reason, components are needed in which electrons can be injected successively into the electron, and one must be able to manipulate the spin of the single electrons, e.g. with the aid of magnetic fields.

Both are possible with a single electron pump, as scientists of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) have, together with colleagues from Latvia, now shown. They will present their results in the current issue of Applied Physics Letters.

Electrons can do more than be merely responsible for current flow and digital information. If one succeeds in utilizing their spin, then many new possibilities would open up. The spin is an inner rotational direction, a quantum-mechanical property which is shown by a rotation around its own axis. An electron can rotate counterclockwise or clockwise. This generates a magnetic moment. One can regard the electron as a minute magnet in which either the magnetic North or South Pole "points upwards" (spin-up or spin-down condition). The electronic spins in a material determine its magnetic properties and are systematically controllable by an external magnetic field.

This is precisely the goal of spintronics (also called spin electronics): systemically control and manipulate single spins in nanometer-sized semiconductor components in order to thus utilize them for information processing. This would even have several advantages: The components would be clearly faster than those that are based on the transport of charges. Furthermore, the process would require less energy than a comparable charge transfer with the same information content. And with the value and direction of the expected spin value, further degrees of freedom would come into play, which could be used additionally for information representation.

In order to be able to manipulate the spins for information processing, it is necessary to inject the electrons singly with predefined spin into a semiconductor structure. This has now been achieved by researchers of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Braunschweig and the University of Latvia in Riga.

In the current issue of the physics journal Applied Physics Letters, they present investigations of a so-called single electron pump. This semiconductor device allows the ejection of exactly one single electron per clock cycle into a semiconductor channel. In the measurements presented it was shown for the first time that such a single electron pump can also be reliably operated in high magnetic fields. For sufficiently high applied fields, the pump then delivers exactly one single electron with predefined spin polarization per pumping cycle. It thus delivers spin-polarized electrons virtually on demand. The robust design and the high achievable clock rate in the gigahertz range makes such a spin-polarized single electron pump a promising candidate especially also for future spintronic applications.

Article: Single-parameter quantized charge pumping in high magnetic fields
B. Kaestner, Ch. Leicht, V. Kashcheyevs, K. Pierz, U. Siegner, and H. W. Schumacher
Applied Physics Letters, 94 012106 (2009).

Source: Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

Explore further: Chemical cluster could transform energy storage for large electrical grids

Related Stories

Leaving flatland – quantum Hall physics in 4-D

January 4, 2018

In literature, the potential existence of extra dimensions was discussed in Edwin Abbott's satirical novel "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions" (1884), portraying the Victorian society in 19th century England as a hierarchical ...

Q&A about the toughness of NASA's webb telescope

December 6, 2017

Just how resilient does a space telescope have to be to survive both Earth's environment and the frigid, airless environment of space? Paul Geithner, the deputy project manager – technical for James Webb Space Telescope ...

Recommended for you

Walking crystals may lead to new field of crystal robotics

February 23, 2018

Researchers have demonstrated that tiny micrometer-sized crystals—just barely visible to the human eye—can "walk" inchworm-style across the slide of a microscope. Other crystals are capable of different modes of locomotion ...

Seeing nanoscale details in mammalian cells

February 23, 2018

In 2014, W. E. Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for co-developing a way of imaging shapes inside cells at very high resolution, called super-resolution ...

Researchers turn light upside down

February 23, 2018

Researchers from CIC nanoGUNE (San Sebastian, Spain) and collaborators have reported in Science the development of a so-called hyperbolic metasurface on which light propagates with completely reshaped wafefronts. This scientific ...

Recurrences in an isolated quantum many-body system

February 23, 2018

It is one of the most astonishing results of physics—when a complex system is left alone, it will return to its initial state with almost perfect precision. Gas particles, for example, chaotically swirling around in a container, ...

Hauling antiprotons around in a van

February 22, 2018

A team of researchers working on the antiProton Unstable Matter Annihilation (PUMA) project near CERN's particle laboratory, according to a report in Nature, plans to capture a billion antiprotons, put them in a shipping ...

0 comments

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.