Spin breakthrough for computers

Author: John Monczunski

Consumers have come to expect new computers to be always smaller, faster and cheaper. But as the industry approaches the physical limits of silicon-based chip technology—some experts say as soon as 2010—those days may be over.

Or maybe not. An emerging technology known as “spintronics,” which literally promises a quantum leap in speed and capacity, is waiting in the wings. And now thanks to a breakthrough from Notre Dame physicist Boldizsár Jankó and his colleagues, that technology, which exploits an electron’s spin as well as its charge, appears one step closer to feasibility.

The associate professor of physics, along with Notre Dame post-doctoral researcher Tatiana Rappoport and Mona Berciu of the University of British Columbia, has identified a way of manipulating spin and charge by forming a hybrid material of a diluted magnetic semiconductor mated with a superconducting material. When the hybrid material is subjected to a magnetic field, incredibly tiny magnetic “tornadoes” are created. These tornadoes act as tweezers, controlling spin and charge in the electrons of the diluted magnetic semiconductor. The breakthrough has been hailed as having great potential for applied and basic condensed matter physics.