Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Plastic computer memory device that utilizes electron spin to read and write data: Alternative to traditional semiconductors

Date:
August 10, 2010
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
Researchers have demonstrated the first plastic computer memory device that utilizes the spin of electrons to read and write data. An alternative to traditional microelectronics, so-called "spintronics" could store more data in less space, process data faster, and consume less power.

Abstract digital data.
Credit: iStockphoto

Researchers at Ohio State University have demonstrated the first plastic computer memory device that utilizes the spin of electrons to read and write data.

An alternative to traditional microelectronics, so-called "spintronics" could store more data in less space, process data faster, and consume less power.

In the August 2010 issue of the journal Nature Materials, Arthur J. Epstein and colleagues describe how they created a prototype plastic spintronic device using techniques found in the mainstream computer industry today.

At this point, the device is little more than a thin strip of dark blue organic-based magnet layered with a metallic ferromagnet and connected to two electrical leads. (A ferromagnet is a magnet made of ferrous metal such as iron. Common household refrigerator magnets are ferromagnets.) Still, the researchers successfully recorded data on it and retrieved the data by controlling the spins of the electrons with a magnetic field.

Epstein, Distinguished University Professor of physics and chemistry and director of the Institute for Magnetic and Electronic Polymers at Ohio State, described the material as a hybrid of a semiconductor that is made from organic materials and a special magnetic polymer semiconductor. As such, it is a bridge between today's computers and the all-polymer, spintronic computers that he and his partners hope to enable in the future.

Normal electronics encode computer data based on a binary code of ones and zeros, depending on whether an electron is present in a void within the material. But researchers have long known that electrons can be polarized to orient in particular directions, like a bar magnet. They refer to this orientation as spin -- either "spin up" or "spin down" -- and have been working on a way to store data using spin. The resulting electronics, dubbed spintronics, would effectively let computers store and transfer twice as much data per electron.

But higher data density is only part of the story.

"Spintronics is often just seen as a way to get more information out of an electron, but really it's about moving to the next generation of electronics," Epstein said. "We could solve many of the problems facing computers today by using spintronics."

Typical circuit boards use a lot of energy. Moving electrons through them creates heat, and it takes a lot of energy to cool them. Chip makers are limited in how closely they can pack circuits together to avoid overheating.

Flipping the spin of an electron requires less energy, and produces hardly any heat at all, he explained. That means that spintronic devices could run on smaller batteries. If they were made out of plastic, they would also be light and flexible.

"We would love to take portable electronics to a spin platform," Epstein said. "Think about soldiers in the field who have to carry heavy battery packs, or even civilian 'road warriors' commuting to meetings. If we had a lighter weight spintronic device which operates itself at a lower energy cost, and if we could make it on a flexible polymer display, soldiers and other users could just roll it up and carry it. We see this portable technology as a powerful platform for helping people."

The magnetic polymer semiconductor in this study, vanadium tetracyanoethanide, is the first organic-based magnet that operates above room temperature. It was developed by Epstein and his long-standing collaborator Joel S. Miller of the University of Utah. Postdoctoral researcher Jung-Woo Yoo called the new material an important milestone in spintronic research.

"Our main achievement is that we applied this polymer-based magnet semiconductor as a spin polarizer -- meaning we could save data (spin up and down) on it using a tiny magnetic field -- and a spin detector -- meaning we could read the data back," he said. "Now we are closer to constructing a device from all-organic material."

In the prototype device, electrons pass into the polymer, and a magnetic field orients them as spin up or spin down. The electrons can then pass into the conventional magnetic layer, but only if the spin of electrons there are oriented in the same way. If they are not, the resistance is too high for the electrons to pass. So the researchers were able to read spin data from their device based on whether the resistance was high or low.

Collaborators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison prepared a sample of conventional magnetic film, and Yoo and his Ohio State colleagues layered it together with the organic magnet to make a working device.

As a test, the researchers exposed the material to a magnetic field that varied in strength over time. To determine whether the material recorded the magnetic pattern and functioned as a good spin injector/detector, they measured the electric current passing through the two magnetic layers. This method is similar to the way computers read and write data to a magnetic hard drive today.

The results, Yoo said, were "textbook" -- they retrieved the magnetic data in its entirety, exactly as they stored it.

The patented technology should transfer easily to industry, he added. "Any place that makes computer chips could do this. Plus, in this case, we made the device at room temperature, and the process is very eco-friendly."

Coauthors on the paper included Chia-Yi Chen and Vladimir Prigodin of Ohio State, and H.W. Jang, C.W. Bark, and Chang-Beom Eom of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This research was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. The original article was written by Pam Frost Gorder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jung-Woo Yoo, Chia-Yi Chen, H. W. Jang, C. W. Bark, V. N. Prigodin, C. B. Eom & A. J. Epstein. Spin injection/detection using an organic-based magnetic semiconductor. Nature Materials, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/nmat2797

Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Plastic computer memory device that utilizes electron spin to read and write data: Alternative to traditional semiconductors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100809171533.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2010, August 10). Plastic computer memory device that utilizes electron spin to read and write data: Alternative to traditional semiconductors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100809171533.htm
Ohio State University. "Plastic computer memory device that utilizes electron spin to read and write data: Alternative to traditional semiconductors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100809171533.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Google is changing its search-engine results to protect content producers from piracy — for a price. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Microsoft will reportedly release a smartwatch that works across different mobile platforms, has a two-day battery life and tracks heart rate. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Spotify Family lets you add a family member to your account for half price. Although users are excited, it's a move competitors have already made. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins