Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > New Materials for Making "Spintronic" Devices

L to R: Alexei Tsvelik, Dmitri Kharzeev, Igor Zaliznyak.
L to R: Alexei Tsvelik, Dmitri Kharzeev, Igor Zaliznyak.

Pushing the development of electronics beyond the limits of electric charge

New Materials for Making "Spintronic" Devices

UPTON, NY | Posted on April 25th, 2007

An interdisciplinary group of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has devised methods to make a new class of electronic devices based on a property of electrons known as "spin," rather than merely their electric charge. This approach, dubbed spintronics, could open the way to increasing dramatically the productivity of electronic devices operating at the nanoscale - on the order of billionths of a meter. The Brookhaven scientists have filed a U.S. provisional patent application for their invention, which is now available for licensing.

"This development can open the way for the use of spintronics in practical room temperature devices, an exciting prospect," said DOE Under Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach. "The interplay between outstanding facilities and laboratory researchers is a root cause for this achievement, and a direct consequence of the collaborative transformational research that takes place in our DOE laboratories."

In the field of electronics, devices based on manipulating electronic charges have been rapidly shrinking and, therefore, getting more efficient, ever since they were first developed in the middle of the last century. "But progress in miniaturization and increasing efficiency is approaching a fundamental technological limit imposed by the atomic structure of matter," said physicist Igor Zaliznyak, lead author on the Brookhaven Lab patent application. Once you've made circuits that approach the size of a few atoms or a single atom, you simply cannot make them any smaller.

To move beyond this limit, Zaliznyak's team has been exploring ways to take advantage of an electron's "quantum spin" in addition to its electric charge.

You can think of spin as somewhat analogous to the spin of a toy top, where the axis of rotation can point in any direction. But unlike a top, which can be slowed down, the "spinning" electron's rotation is a quantum property - that is, a set amount that cannot change. By aligning the spins of multiple electrons so they all point the same way - known as polarization - scientists aim to create a current of spins in addition to a current of charges.

The Brookhaven group uses magnetism to manipulate spin in graphene, a material consisting of flat sheets of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. They've proposed ways to make materials consisting of layers of graphene mated to magnetic and nonmagnetic layers.

These "graphene-magnet multilayers" (GMMs) are expected to retain their properties at room temperature, an important practical requirement for spintronic devices. By properly arranging the magnetization of the magnetic layer(s), they can be used to create a full spectrum of spintronic devices, including (re-)writable microchips, transistors, logic gates, and more. Using magnetism for spin manipulation also opens exciting possibilities for creating active, re-writable and re-configurable devices whose function changes depending on the magnetization pattern written on the magnetic medium.

"Graphene is quite unique," Zaliznyak says, "in that an ideally balanced sheet is neither a conductor nor an insulator. Related to this is the fact that electrons in graphene behave in such a way that their mass effectively vanishes!" In other words, he explains, they move without inertia, like rays of light or particles accelerated to relativistic speeds - that is, close to the speed of light.

Such relativistic particles are studied at Brookhaven at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a nuclear physics facility where scientists are trying to understand the fundamental properties and forces of matter. RHIC theoretical physicist Dmitri Kharzeev and condensed matter physicist Alexei Tsvelik have collaborated with Zaliznyak to gain a better understanding of the physics of magnetized graphene.

"Unifying the pool of knowledge and ideas of two fields is a great advantage for building the theoretical foundation for future devices," Zaliznyak said. The patent application filed by the Brookhaven scientists, which puts graphene-magnet multilayers to work, leverages the large amount of scientific knowledge accumulated in both fields into developing a novel technology. Plus, the opportunity to study relativistic particles in two dimensions - on flat sheets of graphene - was an unexpected and useful arena for Brookhaven's nuclear physicists trying to understand the properties of the matter produced at RHIC.

The patent application covers the methods for making the graphene-magnet multilayers, methods of using the GMMs, methods of magnetizing the GMMs, methods for measuring spintronic "current" in GMMs, and the spintronic devices made from GMMs.

This work was funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences and the Office of Nuclear Physics, both within the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For licensing information, please contact: Kimberley Elcess, Principal Licensing Specialist, Brookhaven National Laboratory, (631) 344-4151,

Note to local editors: Igor Zaliznyak is a resident of Port Jefferson, New York.


About Brookhaven National Laboratory
One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE's Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation of State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

Visit Brookhaven Lab's electronic newsroom for links, news archives, graphics, and more:

For more information, please click here

Karen McNulty Walsh

Mona Rowe

(631) 344-5056

Copyright © Brookhaven National Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press


Smart multi-layered magnetic material acts as an electric switch: New study reveals characteristic of islands of magnetic metals between vacuum gaps, displaying tunnelling electric current March 1st, 2017

First experimental proof of a 70 year old physics theory: First observation of magnetic phase transition in 2-D materials, as predicted by the Nobel winner Onsager in 1943 January 6th, 2017

Investigations of the skyrmion Hall effect reveal surprising results: One step further towards the application of skyrmions in spintronic devices December 28th, 2016

Electron highway inside crystal December 12th, 2016


Atomic imperfections move quantum communication network closer to reality June 25th, 2017

Research accelerates quest for quicker, longer-lasting electronics: UC Riverside-led research makes topological insulators magnetic well above room temperatures June 25th, 2017

Rice U. chemists create 3-D printed graphene foam June 22nd, 2017

Enhanced photocatalytic activity by Cu2O nanoparticles integrated H2Ti3O7 nanotubes June 21st, 2017


Atomic imperfections move quantum communication network closer to reality June 25th, 2017

Research accelerates quest for quicker, longer-lasting electronics: UC Riverside-led research makes topological insulators magnetic well above room temperatures June 25th, 2017

U.S. Air Force Research Lab Taps IBM to Build Brain-Inspired AI Supercomputing System: Equal to 64 million neurons, new neurosynaptic supercomputing system will power complex AI tasks at unprecedented speed and energy efficiency June 23rd, 2017

Rice U. chemists create 3-D printed graphene foam June 22nd, 2017

Patents/IP/Tech Transfer/Licensing

Aculon Expands NanoProof® Product Line for Electronics Waterproofing Technology: With growing market opportunities Aculon Launches NanoProof® 8 with Push Through Connectivity™ and NanoProof® DAB a syringe application May 30th, 2017

NREL’s Advanced Atomic Layer Deposition Enables Lithium-Ion Battery Technology: May 10th, 2017

Forge Nano 2017: 1st Quarter Media Update April 20th, 2017

Making Batteries From Waste Glass Bottles: UCR researchers are turning glass bottles into high performance lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics April 19th, 2017

The latest news from around the world, FREE

  Premium Products
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More

Nanotechnology Now Featured Books


The Hunger Project