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Home > Press > Spintronics could mean big energy savings

Abstract:
A research team has made a breakthrough in nanotechnology by discovering how to transfer magnetic information directly into a semiconductor. The new technique works by the generation and polarisation of spin control in a silicon-based device that works at room temperature - the first time this has been achieved. The results of the study are published in the journal Nature.

Spintronics could mean big energy savings

Netherlands | Posted on November 27th, 2009

As opposed to traditional electronics, which uses the charge of the electron, spintronics uses the electron's 'spin' and manipulates the spin orientation. An electron's sense of rotation is represented by a spin that either points up or down. In magnetic material the spin orientation of the electron can be used to store information. The challenge for nanotechnology is the transfer of this spin information to a semiconductor, so that the information stored can be processed in spin-based electronic components.

The use of spintronics technology could revolutionise the electronics and computing industries by making it possible to store vast amounts of data in much smaller devices than is currently possible.

The development of a silicon-based device that works at room temperature is a breakthrough for two reasons: first, silicon is the prevalent material in modern electronics production; and second, until now scientists have only been able to demonstrate control of electron spin at low temperatures that are not practical for everyday use.

The demonstration of information exchange between a magnetic material and a semiconductor at room temperature is a positive step in the development of spintronics technology. If the new technology takes off it would mean huge energy savings because reversing the 'electronic spin' would require less power than the normal electronic charge.

To achieve the information exchange, the research team inserted a one-nanometre thick layer of aluminium oxide between the magnetic material and the semiconductor. The information is then transferred by applying an electric current across the oxide interface which introduces a magnetisation in the semiconductor. Importantly, this method works well with silicon.

The team found that the spin information propagated into the silicon to a depth of several hundred nanometres which is sufficient for the operation of nanoscale spintronic components.

The research team, which was led by Dr Ron Jansen from the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente and included the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM), both in the Netherlands, believes that the new findings make the timely development of 'spintronics' technology much more likely and may help to integrate silicon spin technologies with current electronics technology.

Funding for the project came from the FOM Foundation and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

For more information, please visit:

Nature: www.nature.com/

MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Twente: www.mesaplus.utwente.nl/

FOM Foundation: www.fom.nl/live/english/home.pag

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