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Semiconductor could turn heat into computing power
Date:9/27/2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio Computers might one day recycle part of their own waste heat, using a material being studied by researchers at Ohio State University.

The material is a semiconductor called gallium manganese arsenide. In the early online edition of Nature Materials, researchers describe the detection of an effect that converts heat into a quantum mechanical phenomenon known as spin in a semiconductor.

Once developed, the effect could enable integrated circuits that run on heat, rather than electricity.

This research merges two cutting-edge technologies: thermo-electricity and spintronics, explained team leaders Joseph Heremans, Ohio Eminent Scholar in Nanotechnology, and Roberto Myers, assistant professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Ohio State University.

Researchers around the world are working to develop electronics that utilize the spin of electrons to read and write data. So-called "spintronics" are desirable because in principle they could store more data in less space, process data faster, and consume less power.

Myers and Heremans are trying to combine spintronics with thermo-electronics that is, devices that convert heat to electricity.

The hybrid technology, "thermo-spintronics," would convert heat to electron spin.

In so doing, thermo-spintronics could solve two problems for the computing industry: how to remove waste heat, and how to boost computing power without creating more heat.

"Spintronics is considered as a possible basis for new computers in part because the technology is claimed to produce no heat. Our measurements shed light on the thermodynamics of spintronics, and may help address the validity of this claim," Heremans said.

In fact, as the electronics industry tries to build smaller, denser computer circuits, a main limiting factor is the heat those circuits produce, said Myers.

"All of the computers we have now coul
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Contact: Joseph Heremans
Heremans.1@osu.edu
614-247-8869
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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