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Spin Designers

Magnetic tunnel junctions hidden under cones of tungsten used as an etch mask.

A University of Minnesota-led team wants to use the spin of electrons on nanomagnets, rather than electric charge, to encode zeros and ones on future computers.

Credit: Caroline Ross

The Center for Spintronic Materials, Interfaces, and Novel Architectures (C-SPIN) is a University of Minnesota-led team of 32 professors and more than 100 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers from 18 universities that wants to use the spin of electrons on nanomagnets, instead of electric charge, to encode zeros and ones in future computers.

If C-SPIN is successful, future computers could be 10 times faster than today's systems, while using only 1 percent of the energy.

"I'm part of a work flow that includes researchers from Arizona, California-Riverside, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Minnesota, and Penn State," says Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Caroline Ross. "With the Center's coordinated funding, we are making significant progress."

Ross is focused on developing methods to pattern ultra-small magnetic structures, as well as magnetic "insulators" that help control the way spin is shared with neighboring magnets and other devices.

Meanwhile, MIT professor Geoffrey Beach is studying ways to reduce the power required to "switch" magnetic spin, a process that changes zeros to ones and ones to zeros.

Although spin-based computers are not on the near-term horizon, Beach says C-SPIN researchers have made significant progress over the last two years.

From MIT News
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