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August 13, 2012
IBM Advances Spintronics Toward Practical Use
By Ashok Bindra, TMCnet Contributor
Spintronics, or spin transport electronics, has been in development since the eighties. Although it promises more efficient semiconductor devices, the technology has not advanced enough to actually preserve encoded information for long enough before rotating.
Technology website TGDaily.com reports that scientists from IBM Research and solid-state physics lab at ETH Zurich have jointly shown that synchronizing electrons extends the spin lifetime of the electron by 30 times, up to 1.1 nanoseconds – the same amount of time it takes for an existing 1 GHz processor to cycle.
IBM said this latest advancement is based on a previously unknown aspect of physics, whereby electron spins move tens of micrometers in a semiconductor with their orientations synchronously rotating along the path, similar to a couple dancing the waltz.
“If all couples start with the women facing north, after a while the rotating pairs are oriented in different directions,” said IBM’s Gian Salis. “We can now lock the rotation speed of the dancers to the direction they move."
Added Salis: "This results in a perfect choreography where all the women in a certain area face the same direction. This control and ability to manipulate and observe the spin is an important step in the development of spin-based transistors that are electrically programmable."
This new understanding in spintronics not only gives scientists a new level of control over the magnetic movements inside devices, according to IBM; it also opens new possibilities for creating more energy-efficient semiconductor electronics.
Researchers employed ultra-short laser pulses to monitor the evolution of thousands of electron spins that were created simultaneously in a very small spot. Also, the developers stated that such spins, which would earlier lose their orientation quickly, can now arrange neatly into a regular stripe-like pattern, the so-called persistent spin helix.
Scientists have also imaged the synchronous “waltz” of the electron spins by using a time-resolved scanning microscope technique.
Concurrently, researchers said transferring spin electronics from the laboratory to the market will still be quite a challenge. The effect shows up only at very low temperatures, 40 Kelvin in this case.
Edited by Braden Becker
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