Researchers at North Carolina State University have discovered a new distinct form of silicon called Q-silicon which, among other interesting properties, is ferromagnetic at room temperature. The findings could lead to advances in quantum computing, including the creation of a spin qubit quantum computer that is based on controlling the spin of an electron.
"The discovery of Q-silicon having robust room temperature ferromagnetism will open a new frontier in atomic-scale, spin-based devices and functional integration with nanoelectronics," said Jay Narayan, the John C. Fan Family Distinguished Chair in Materials Science and corresponding author of a paper describing the work published in Materials Research Letters.
Ferromagnetism in materials outside of transition metals and rare earths has excited scientists worldwide for a long time. This is because spin-polarized electrons can be used to process and store information with atomic resolution. However, materials with even numbers of electrons, such as carbon and silicon, without unpaired spins were not considered seriously in terms of bulk ferromagnetism. The dangling bonds in bulk carbon and silicon materials usually reconstruct and eliminate sources of unpaired electrons.
From North Carolina State University
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