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 constru
|Contact: Arthur J. Epstein|
Ohio State University