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Spinning out the future of our electronic devices

Posted August 30, 2013
Spinning out the future of our electronic devices

Spinning out the future of our electronic devices
Unit cell structures of the new antiferromagnetic spintronic material, orthorhombic CuMnAs and tetragonal CuMnAs. Credit: STFC

To satisfy the world’s desire for ever more processing power, at ever diminishing energy cost, in even tinier devices, scientists are looking to spintronics (spin transport electronics) to provide the next generation of high-speed, high-efficiency electronic devices.

New research, led by a team of physicists at The University of Nottingham, and published on 20 August 2013, in the journal Nature Communications, reports on the development of a new antiferromagnetic spintronic material, tetragonal CuMnAs, which could provide one of the answers.

Dr Peter Wadley, a research fellow in theSchool of Physics and Astronomy, said: “We are working in a relatively unexplored area of applied physics and our research provides fresh insight into the basic physics of the new field of antiferromagnetic spintronics. This material has provided us with the possibility of designing new device structures for the microelectronics industry combining spintronic and nanoelectronic functionality at room temperature.”

Where conventional electronics rely only on the charge property of electrons, spintronics makes use of another fundamental quantity of electrons, termed spin.

In antiferromagnets, electron spins on adjacent atoms tend to cancel each other out. It is therefore surprising that they can perform an active role in spintronic devices. However, recent calculations and experiments have indicated a range of new physical phenomena associated with antiferromagnets, with potential memory and sensing applications. This new material, with high crystal quality and compatibility with existing semiconductors, is a promising candidate material for the new field of antiferromagnetic spintronics.

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