Spin material handles heat

December 3/10, 2003

Computer chips - made from semiconductor materials - carry out computations by using the presence or absence of electrical current to represent the 1s and 0s of computer information. Computer disks - made from ferromagnetic materials -- store information by using magnetic orientation to represent 1s and 0s.

Spintronics materials can do both by distinguishing between the two magnetic orientations, or spins, of electrons. The materials have the potential to foster faster, more efficient, more stable computing. The trick is finding a material that has both semiconducting and magnetic properties at temperatures warm enough to be used in ordinary computers.

Researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden have doped, or mixed the semiconductor zinc oxide with the metal manganese to make a ferromagnetic semiconductor material that retains its magnetic properties at temperatures as high as 177 degrees Celsius.

Zinc oxide is a common electronic material used in mobile phones and high-speed communications networks. The combination could lead to faster, lower power computers that don't require rotating disks for high-density information storage and retrieval, according to the researchers.

The material could be used in some applications in five years, and possibly new types of computers in 10 years, according to the researchers.The work appeared in the September 21, 2003 issue of Nature Materials.

Page One

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