Physicists capture first images of atomic spin

Physicists capture first images of atomic spin
The different shape and appearance of these individual cobalt atoms is caused by the different spin directions. Image courtesy of Saw-Wai Hla, Ohio University

( -- Though scientists argue that the emerging technology of spintronics may trump conventional electronics for building the next generation of faster, smaller, more efficient computers and high-tech devices, no one has actually seen the spin—a quantum mechanical property of electrons—in individual atoms until now. In a study published as an Advance Online Publication in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on Sunday, physicists at Ohio University and the University of Hamburg in Germany present the first images of spin in action.

The researchers used a custom-built microscope with an iron-coated tip to manipulate cobalt atoms on a plate of . Through , the team repositioned individual cobalt atoms on a surface that changed the direction of the electrons' spin. Images captured by the scientists showed that the atoms appeared as a single protrusion if the spin direction was upward, and as double protrusions with equal heights when the spin direction was downward.

The study suggests that scientists can observe and manipulate spin, a finding that may impact future development of nanoscale magnetic storage, quantum computers and spintronic devices.

"Different directions in spin can mean different states for ," said Saw-Wai Hla, an associate professor of physics and astronomy in Ohio University's Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute and one of the primary investigators on the study. "The memory devices of current computers involve tens of thousands of atoms. In the future, we may be able to use one atom and change the power of the computer by the thousands."

Unlike , which give off heat, spintronic-based devices are expected to experience less power dissipation.

The experiments were conducted in an ultra-high vacuum at the low temperature of 10 Kelvin, with the use of . Researchers will need to observe the phenomenon at room temperature before it can be used in computer hard drives.

But the new study suggests a path to that application, said study lead author Andre Kubetzka of the University of Hamburg. To image spin direction, the team not only used a new technique but also a manganese surface with a spin that, in turn, allowed the scientists to manipulate the spin of the under study.

"The combination of atom manipulation and spin sensitivity gives a new perspective of constructing atomic-scale structures and investigating their magnetic properties," Kubetzka said.

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Provided by Ohio University
Citation: Physicists capture first images of atomic spin (2010, April 26) retrieved 16 July 2019 from
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Apr 26, 2010
Thank you Bloodoflamb. This is the kind of information that makes me learn interesting things. Not like the typical articles of this site, many of which are written by pseudo-scientific journalists that do not really understand the matter that they are writing about...

Apr 26, 2010

PLEASE, comment more often!
It was an education in just five lines of print!!!

Apr 27, 2010
I don't understand the visual, ie, the directional arrows representing spin in relation to the "different shape and appearance." Huh?

Apr 27, 2010
The important part to note is that one is being shown the nature of fabric of the 3-d universe, here, via the illustration that matter is not symmetrical, and is made up of 2-d stress fields of infinite size (from our vantage point). The resultant meeting point of two of these 2-d fields creates the observation point called our higher dimension....and also creates the wave-particle 'seeming' paradox. This wave particle seeming vantage point, ie our 'higher' dimension, when we look 'back' from that and see the spinning meeting point from those oscillating 2-d stress fields, we get our pi and phi aspects...and the infinite seeming energy of 'atomic structure', which is actually not in perfect balance, otherwise the arrow of time would not exist, along with the rest of this 'dimension' we call reality. Maxwell illustrated this perfectly.

It is a stabilized/stressed resonance system that 'appears' to oscillate and/or spin, from our vantage point-thus, resonance can be used to modify it.

Apr 28, 2010
Good spin b 'seen'; shows real not just quantum term eg 'colour'.
Seem nearer goal. Am giv credit str theory but not vibrate. Think spin as endures longer than vibrate eva.
Give credence to xtra dimensions. 2 me dim's r math form; not physical reality. Math most represent physical but is not it. Eg: 'real' nbr sys only approx 'real' universe but 4 most times more than enuf.
This lets g be dimension in equations.
Xtra dimensions curl may b truth; simply b result spinning strings. Can c in g bodies, if still g is down, if spinnin add 'frame drag' xtra dimension.
Same way think spinning strings b xtra dimension in calcs.

Apr 28, 2010
Last thing 2 kno is form strings take and why. Then will find 'universal constant' from wich all other consts b found.
Pleased 2 c anotha article say g mayb stronga eg >= others & mayn't xperience full g due lost in2 otha dimensions. Yes but think need 2 vector add due diff spin directions so most g cancels.
What doesn't due 2 'angular velocity' give otha forces include residue felt as g.

Apr 29, 2010

Not sure what KBK is talking about... And I doubt it has much relevance. Not to offend.

It has a tremendous amount of relevance. But only if you know how to look at it. Not to offend.

point being, some who read theses snippets are looking for other things, clues. Things to sniff out, crumbs on the trail. The words are couched and phrased for them. They get it. But, they will never reply here, for the most part.

And maybe, perhaps, what I write will sit in your noggin and come to the fore, either consciously, or subconsciously...whenever the time is right or the information causes the light to turn on.

"When you're one step ahead of the crowd you're a genius. When you're two steps ahead, you're a crackpot."

Apr 30, 2010
"Thus, what you're seeing is not actually the spin itself, but the effects of the spin on the spatial wave function." (Bloodoflamb)
That's quite right. You can see the calculated electron density (at the Fermi level) at http://www.nature...dex.html
If you don't have access to the main article, it's also in the supplement.

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