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Beyond Silicon: New Semiconductor Moves 'spintronics' Toward Reality

Ph.D. student Juan Lopez cuts a glass tube used in the production process for a new semiconductor compound.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a compound they say is the first to incorporate spintronic properties into a material that is stable at room temperature.

Credit: Joseph Xu

University of Michigan researchers have developed a semiconductor compound created from a low symmetry crystal structure. The researchers say the compound is the first to build spintronic properties into a material that is stable at room temperature and easily tailored to a variety of applications, including possibly being used as the base material for spintronic processors.

Spintronics technology uses both the on or off electrical charge and the up or down magnetic spin of electrons to store information. Spin-based circuits can be smaller than charge-based circuits, enabling manufacturers to squeeze more circuits onto a single processor.

"The spin of electrons remains stable at much smaller sizes, so spintronic devices open the door to a whole new generation of computing," says Michigan professor Ferdinand Poudeu. In addition, he notes spintronic devices can retain data even after the power is shut off. The researchers used a mixture of iron, bismuth, and selenium to create a complex crystal that offers much greater flexibility. This low symmetry crystal has holes of varying sizes placed at several distances in multiple, overlapping layers.

The new compound "enables us to arrange atoms in a huge number of different combinations so that we can manipulate conductivity and magnetism independently," says Michigan researcher Juan Lopez.

From University of Michigan News Service
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