bit-tech.net

IBM researchers boast of spintronics breakthrough

IBM researchers boast of spintronics breakthrough

IBM Research, in partnership with ETH Zurich, claims to have made a serious breakthrough in the field of spintronics which could lead to significantly lower-power processors.

IBM has released details of a successful experiment resulting in the first ever direct mapping of the formation of a persistent spin helix in a semiconductor - a major step on the path to commercialising spintronic technology.

Spintronics, a portmanteau of 'spin,' 'transport' and 'electronics,' promises to revolutionise the semiconductor market. Spintronic components use the spin of the electron to store a zero or a one, rather than the charge of the electron. The result is the storage and transmission of data - and even calculations - with no energy dissipation, and a resulting reduction in the power required. Spintronic components would also blur the barrier between memory and storage, producing high-speed non-volatile storage which could easily be used as either memory or mass storage.

Sadly, spintronics is a technology which remains tantalisingly out of grasp, requiring several major breakthroughs before it can be commercially implemented. Chief among these was the problem of whether electron spins possessed the capability to preserve the encoded information long enough before rotating - a theoretical possibility, but one unproven.

Researches from IBM Research and the Solid State Physics Lab at ETH Zurich have now answered that question with a resounding 'yes,' in an experiment which lengthened the spin lifetime of electronics thirty-fold to 1.1 nanoseconds - a timescale handily compatible with the cycle of a 1GHz processor.

The breakthrough, IBM's Gian Salis explains, came from an observation that electron spins move in a manner similar to dancers in the Viennese waltz - shifting tens of micrometres in a semiconductor with their orientation rotating along the path in perfect synchronisation.

'If all couples start with the women facing north, after a while the rotating pairs are oriented in different directions,' Salis explains of his group's discovery. 'We can now lock the rotation speed of the dancers to the direction they move. This results in a perfect choreography where all the women in a certain area face the same direction. This control and ability to manipulate and observe the spin is an important step in the development of spin-based transistors that are electrically programmable.'

Using short laser pulses to monitor the evolution of thousands of electron spins created simultaneously in a very small spot on a gallium arsenide semiconductor, IBM researchers were able to observe a persistent spin helix - a stripe-like pattern key to the success of spintronics and originally theoretically proposed back in 2003 but never before directly observed.

Sadly, despite representing a major breakthrough in the field, spintronics remains a lab-based pursuit: IBM warns that its experiments took place at a temperature of 40 Kelvin, or -233 degrees Celsius - something even the most impressive off-the-shelf liquid cooling system is unlikely to achieve in commercial devices.

The team's research has been published in the journal Nature Physics.

8 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
steveo_mcg 14th August 2012, 10:51 Quote
Didn't the last Labour government master this? Surely it would've been cheaper to licence it from Darling than reverse engineer it.
alpaca 14th August 2012, 11:20 Quote
Liquid cooling would never achieve a temperature lower than the ambient temperature. Unless you use TEC-like technology. But maybe we'll need another nuclear power plant or two to support the power draw then...

/nitpicker
Gareth Halfacree 14th August 2012, 12:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpaca
Liquid cooling would never achieve a temperature lower than the ambient temperature. Unless you use TEC-like technology. But maybe we'll need another nuclear power plant or two to support the power draw then...

/nitpicker

You're thinking of water cooling. Liquid cooling, which is what IBM used, can go way below ambient. Think liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen, liquid helium...
OWNED66 14th August 2012, 14:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
Didn't the last Labour government master this? Surely it would've been cheaper to licence it from Darling than reverse engineer it.

wtf are you talking about
alpaca 14th August 2012, 14:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree

You're thinking of water cooling. Liquid cooling, which is what IBM used, can go way below ambient. Think liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen, liquid helium...

Ah yes. Excuse me for being stupid.
Gareth Halfacree 14th August 2012, 14:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by OWNED66
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
Didn't the last Labour government master this? Surely it would've been cheaper to licence it from Darling than reverse engineer it.
wtf are you talking about
I believe he's referring to the former government's extensive use of 'spin' doctors - although he'd have been better mentioning McBride, rather than the relatively darling Darling.
Blazza181 14th August 2012, 14:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
Didn't the last Labour government master this? Surely it would've been cheaper to licence it from Darling than reverse engineer it.

I like your thinking. But surely our Eternal Leader Kim IL Sung has mastered everything, including spin.

Sent from my Orange San Francisco using Tapatalk
Star*Dagger 15th August 2012, 18:24 Quote
I wonder if they realize that they are creating the way the electrons act.
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums