University of Twente scientists in the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, and from the FOM Foundation, have successfully transferred magnetic information directly into a semiconductor at room temperature. The researchers say that exchanging information at room temperature is a major step toward developing spintronics, a new, more energy efficient form of electronics. In magnetic materials, the spin orientation of an electron can be used to store information as a “1″ or “0.” The challenge was transferring the spin information to a semiconductor so the information could be processed in spin-based electronic components, which are expected to use far less power. To achieve the information exchange, the researchers inserted an ultra-thin layer of aluminum oxide between the magnetic material and the semiconductor. The information was transferred by applying an electric current across the oxide interface, which introduces a magnetization in the semiconductor with a controllable magnitude and orientation. This method can be used with silicon. The researchers discovered that the spin information can propagate into the silicon to a depth of several hundred nanometers, which is enough for the operation of nanoscale spintronic components. The next step is to build new electronic components and circuits capable of manipulating spin information.
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