Washington: Hybrid spintronic computer chips are now one step closer to reality.
Researchers have developed the first electronic circuit to merge traditional inorganic semiconductors with organic "spintronics".
"Spintronics" are devices that utilize the spin of electrons to read, write and manipulate data.
Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin, assistant professor of physics, and his team combined an inorganic semiconductor with a unique plastic material that is under development in colleague Arthur J. Epstein``s lab at Ohio State University.
Johnston-Halperin, Epstein, and their colleagues have incorporated the plastic device into a traditional circuit based on gallium arsenide.
The researchers have described how they transmitted a spin-polarized electrical current from the plastic material, through the gallium arsenide, and into a light-emitting diode (LED) as proof that the organic and inorganic parts were working together.
"Hybrid structures promise functionality that no other materials, neither organic nor inorganic, can currently achieve alone," said Johnston-Halperin.
"We``ve opened the door to linking this exciting new material to traditional electronic devices with transistor and logic functionality. In the longer term this work promises new, chemically based functionality for spintronic devices," added Johnston-Halperin.
Normal electronics encode computer data based on a binary code of ones and zeros, depending on whether an electron is present or not within the material. But researchers have long known that electrons can be polarized to orient in particular directions, like a bar magnet. They refer to this orientation as spin -- either "spin up" or "spin down" -- and this approach, dubbed spintronics, has been applied to memory-based technologies for modern computing.
Spintronic logic would theoretically require much less power, and produce much less heat, than current electronics, while enabling computers to turn on instantly without "booting up."
Hybrid and organic devices further promise computers that are lighter and more flexible, much as organic LEDs are now replacing inorganic LEDs in the production of flexible displays.
A spintronic semiconductor must be magnetic, so that the spin of electrons can be flipped for data storage and manipulation. Few typical semiconductors - that is, inorganic semiconductors - are magnetic. Of those that are, all require extreme cold, with operating temperatures below -150 degrees Fahrenheit or -100 degrees Celsius. That``s colder than the coldest outdoor temperature ever recorded in Antarctica.
"In order to build a practical spintronic device, you need a material that is both semiconducting and magnetic at room temperature. To my knowledge, Art``s organic materials are the only ones that do that," said Johnston-Halperin.
The research is detailed in the journal Physical Review Letters.
First Published: Thursday, April 14, 2011, 14:02