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The Birth of Topological Spintronics

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The crystal structure of the topological insulator bismuth selenide, consisting of five atomic layers of alternating selenide (Se) and bismuth (Bi).

A new material combination could lead to a more efficient approach to computer memory and logic.

Credit: Penn State

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and Cornell University have discovered a new material combination they say could lead to a more efficient approach to computer memory and logic.

The researchers focused on "spintorque" in devices, which combines a standard magnetic material with a novel material known as a topological insulator. The results show the new method can be 10 times more efficient for controlling magnetic memory or logic than any other combinations of materials measured to date.

"This is a really exciting development for the field because it is the first promising indication that we actually may be able to build a practical technology with these topological insulator materials, which many condensed-matter physicists have been studying with spintronics applications as the motivation," says PSU professor Nitin Samarth.

The researchers fashioned thin-film materials into devices and carried out the spin-torque measurements.

"Our experiment takes advantage of the very special surface of bismuth selenide--a material that is a topological insulator--which inherently supports the flow of electrons with an oriented spin," Samarth notes. "Our collaborators at Cornell found that, at normal room temperatures, we can use these spin-oriented electrons to very efficiently control the direction of the magnetic polarity in the adjacent material."

From Penn State News
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