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Graphene and 'spintronics' combo looks promising

January 27, 2011
American Institute of Physics
A team of physicists in China has taken a big step toward the development of useful graphene spintronic devices.

This schematic of a graphene spin current pump shows a ferromagnetic layer deposited on a monolayer of graphene between two metal gates.
Credit: Image courtesy of American Institute of Physics

A team of physicists has taken a big step toward the development of useful graphene spintronic devices. The physicists, from the City University of Hong Kong and the University of Science and Technology of China, present their findings in the American Institute of Physics' Applied Physics Letters.

Graphene, a two-dimensional crystalline form of carbon, is being touted as a sort of "Holy Grail" of materials. It boasts properties such as a breaking strength 200 times greater than steel and, of great interest to the semiconductor and data storage industries, electric currents that can blaze through it 100 times faster than in silicon.

Spintronic devices are being hotly pursued because they promise to be smaller, more versatile, and much faster than today's electronics. "Spin" is a quantum mechanical property that arises when a particle's intrinsic rotational momentum creates a tiny magnetic field. And spin has a direction, either "up" or "down." The direction can encode data in the 0s and 1s of the binary system, with the key here being that spin-based data storage doesn't disappear when the electric current stops.

"There is strong research interest in spintronic devices that process information using electron spins, because these novel devices offer better performance than traditional electronic devices and will likely replace them one day," says Kwok Sum Chan, professor of physics at the City University of Hong Kong "Graphene is an important material for spintronic devices because its electron spin can maintain its direction for a long time and, as a result, information stored isn't easily lost."

It is, however, difficult to generate a spin current in graphene, which would be a key part of carrying information in a graphene spintronic device. Chan and colleagues came up with a method to do just that. It involves using spin splitting in monolayer graphene generated by ferromagnetic proximity effect and adiabatic (a process that is slow compared to the speed of the electrons in the device) quantum pumping. They can control the degree of polarization of the spin current by varying the Fermi energy (the level in the distribution of electron energies in a solid at which a quantum state is equally likely to be occupied or empty), which they say is very important for meeting various application requirements.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Qingtian Zhang, K. S. Chan, Zijing Lin. Spin current generation by adiabatic pumping in monolayer graphene. Applied Physics Letters, 2011; 98 (3): 032106 DOI: 10.1063/1.3544581

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American Institute of Physics. "Graphene and 'spintronics' combo looks promising." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2011. <>.
American Institute of Physics. (2011, January 27). Graphene and 'spintronics' combo looks promising. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2015 from
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