Spintronic materials are the Holy Grail of nanotechnology. They have the potential to dramatically reduce the size of devices and improve their efficiency, creating the next generation of fast, powerful, and miniaturised technology. But we’re not there yet. Scientists around the world are currently on the hunt for these special materials, looking for ways to make them usable in real-life conditions. At Diamond, scientists are joining the search for a perfect spintronic material with research that will help to shape the future of technology.
Moore’s Law observes that the amount of processing power required by technology doubles about every two years. In the 1970s, a computer would have about 20,000 ‘transistors’ – tiny devices that help to transfer data. These days, an iPhone 6 has two billion.
We’re requiring more and more nanotech components to create our advanced devices, but we have a problem: more components require more space and more power. So we have two options: we can either reduce the size of these components, or we can make them more efficient.
In the past, we’ve been focussed on trying to bring down the size of technology components, but we’ve almost reached the limit for how small we can get them. And so fairly soon, we can expect to see devices getting bigger and hotter, as they eat up more energy to keep running. That’s why scientists are looking to create transistors from new materials that use less power and transfer data more efficiently, allowing us to pack the same computing power into ever smaller devices.
Normal transistors work like tiny electronic switches. They transfer data and essentially enable all action to take place on devices: from opening up an app to making a call. But for transistors to work, they need to be exposed to a voltage.
If we can make these transistors out of a different class of materials – known as spintronic materials – it’s possible to make them much more efficient. Instead of transferring information using electron charge, like regular transistors do, spintronic transistors could exploit another fundamental property of electrons: their spin. This would allow us to transfer data, not through charge, but by the flow of electrons with a specific spin, thus making spin-based transistors much more powerful than traditional ones.