Research Matters

Research Matters

Spintronics


Using powerful lasers, Hui Zhao, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, and graduate student Lalani Werake have discovered a new way to recognize currents of spinning electrons within a semiconductor. Their findings could help pave the way for next-generation computers.

Episode #73



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Transcript


A breakthrough in spintronics holds promise for next-generation computers. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Using powerful lasers, Hui Zhao, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, and graduate student Lalani Werake. have discovered a new way to recognize currents of spinning electrons within a semiconductor.

Their findings could lead the way to development of superior computers and electronics.

"The goal is to replace everything basically - from computers to memory devices, to have higher performance but the main target right now is computers. We have been using the charge of the electron for several decades, we understand it we know how to detect them; we have very, very low-cost, high-sensitivity devices. Right now, the size of each device is 30 to 50 nanometers, but you don't have many atoms on that length scale. Therefore, we can't continue that way anymore - we're hitting a fundamental limit basically."

Zhao and Werake research spin-based electronics, dubbed "spintronics." Instead of using the presence or absence of an electronic charge, spintronics relies on the direction of rotation of an electron to convey digital data.

Roughly speaking, an electron can be viewed as a tiny ball that spins like a baseball," said Zhao. "The difference is that a baseball can spin at any speed, but an electron can only spin at a certain speed - either counterclockwise or clockwise. Therefore, we can use one spin state to represent 'zero' and another to represent 'one.' Because a single electron can carry this information, this takes much less time and much less energy."

A major hurdle for spintronics researchers has been the difficulty in detecting the flow of spinning electrons in real time. The discovery by Zhao and Werake in KU's Ultrafast Laser Lab changes that.

"We just hope that this new technology can be used in many research labs in their studies. Eventually, as spintronics become an industry, we expect this could become a routine technique to check the quality of devices."

For more on spintronics, log onto Research Matters dot KU dot EDU. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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'Spintronics' breakthrough holds promise for next-generation computers

Using powerful lasers, Hui Zhao, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, and graduate student Lalani Werake have discovered a new way to recognize currents of spinning electrons within a semiconductor.

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