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Breakthrough in 'spintronics' Can Lead to Energy Efficient Chips


silicon spin sandwich

The researchers transferred information by applying an electric current across an ultra thin layer of aluminum oxide, which introduces a magnetization in the semiconductor with a controllable magnitude and orientation.

Credit: Nature

University of Twente scientists at the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, and from the FOM Foundation, have successfully transferred magnetic information directly into a semiconductor at room temperature. The researchers say that the exchange of information at room temperature for the first time is a major step toward developing spintronics, a new, more energy efficient form of electronics.

In magnetic materials, the spin orientation of an electron can be used to store information as a "1" or "0." The challenge was transferring the spin information to a semiconductor so the information could be processed in spin-based electronic components, which are expected to use far less power. To achieve the information exchange, the researchers inserted an ultra-thin layer of aluminum oxide between the magnetic material and the semiconductor. The information was transferred by applying an electric current across the oxide interface, which introduces a magnetization in the semiconductor with a controllable magnitude and orientation.

This method can be used with silicon. The researchers discovered that the spin information can propagate into the silicon to a depth of several hundred nanometers, which is enough for the operation of nanoscale spintronic components. The next step is to build new electronic components and circuits capable of manipulating spin information.

From University of Twente (Netherlands)
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