Researchers develop room-temperature spintronics

The possible transition to a new generation of electronic devices based on ‘spintronics’ has been given a boost with a method which would let the technology function at room temperature.

A team of researchers at Aarhus University reckon that it has made a massive leap forward in making spintronics a viable technology sooner, rather than later. 

With current computer electronics being produced at ever lower processes scientists are looking at spintronics as a method to enable faster and more efficient processors in the future.  While such a move is not vital in the short term, spintronics has been in developmental stages in many labs.

But now the scientists believe they have brought forward the use of spintronics significantly by devising a method to make it work under normal conditions.

This is down to a topological insulator material bismuth selenide which can help to regulate the flow of electrons used to record a rotational ‘spin’.  Because the effect is so small it is necessary for the electrons to travel large distances in order to work.

This means that it has been possible to make spintronics-based transistors work closer to absolute zero, around -270°C.  This makes the use of the technology in current electronic devices a tad tricky.

But with the discoveries made with bismuth selenide, it has apparently been possible to generate an effect from electrons which is over a hundred times stronger.  Crucially this means that the spin can occur effectively at room temperature.

This opens the door for spin field effect transistors that work at on even a nanoscale, while being viable for normal use.

The discovery stemmed from examining the properties of topological insulator bismuth selenide.  A topological insulator is a material that is able to insulate on the inside while conducting on the surface. 

Topological insulators have been the basis of other endeavors into spintonics in the past, with properties that mean that heat development is reduced meaning lower energy consumption. 

Now the researchers reckon that materials are finally catching up with theoretical ideas for development of spintronics technologies.

While it may still be some time before spintronics devices are on the shelves of your local electronics shop, the “rapid development” with topological insulators means that the technology could soon be within reach.