Spintronics, sounds like a new dance move for the doof doof crowd but no, Spintronics is a new field of Quantum Physics that is working towards making the inner workings of computer chips smaller and faster.
Spintronics refers to the science of using the direction of electrons spinning around an atom to store information. If you could zoom into an atom you would see electrons spinning around a central core – nucleus -, between the circling electrons and the core is a whole lot of space, even atoms aren’t solid. The direction the electrons circle the nucleus – left or right- is its spin. This spin is the main characteristic that scientists are trying to work with in order to make a whole new kind of gadget. By being able to alter the direction of the spin and then read it back at any time scientists will be able store information by using lots of atoms.
How do you store information using left and right ? As long as there are two answers possible, a yes or no, up or down, left or right, a computer can use it to store data. This is done using binary conversions to convert a normal number into a longer series of 1’s and zero’s. So in Spintronics case first left or right is converted into 1 or 0. By lining 8 atoms up next to each other and using them together you are able to store a number 0 to 256. Binary works just the same as the base 10 maths – decimal – everyone is used to. In base 10 when you write a three digit number the left column is 100’s, the middle column is 10’s and the right is units – 100, 10, 1 – Using three digits the normal base 10 system can store up-to 999 – 9 hundreds, 9 10’s and 9 units – . Binary is just the same, a 2 base number with three digits will only store 0-8. In binary 111 = 7, – 1 in 4 column, 1 in 2 column, 1 in the units column, add the columns up and that’s the number in decimal. Add columns and your can store a bigger number. Using 8 columns – bits – you can build a number up-to 256, the columns are 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1.
Besides having a cool name Spintronics really rocks as it means scientists are developing the tools to work at levels we hadn’t imagined a little while ago. These tools will become the basis of new science and technology. They are moving into a world so different from ours it’s almost like the looking glass. The theories behind Quantum science have been with us for a while and while they are interesting it’s just talk and theory until there is something tangible produced from it Spintronics is the most useful and practical application of what was just a theory up until recently.
“Spintronics is still in the research phase, and we hope that this new technology can be used in labs to look at problems that interest researchers,” said Hui Zhao, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas
There are still many issues to deal with for the white coats in the lab. At the moment it really on works at super cold temperatures – below -200 below zero – , the equipment to do the read and write fills a room and all work is being done with only a few atoms, try billions of atoms.
So what will all these spinning atoms get us ? Computer chips at the moment are reaching the technological limit, to keep computer technology advancing Spintronics holds the most promise. Also, the knowledge being gained here will will become the basis of the new atomic revolution. The true atomic revolution is when we can build anything we want one atom at a time, the factory of the future. The tools developed here will become the future factory. Real products are already appearing using Spintronic techniques, Motorola is using a form of Spintronics in its latest memory type M-RAM. Magnetic ram has the best bits of ram and a hard drive combined, its fast and doesn’t loose data when the power goes off.
Spintronics is still in it’s infancy, experiments are being done and results collected. There are still a lot of things that need to be worked out, hurdles to overcome but after-all that is what people do well, keep overcoming hurdles, working through problems. Keep an eye out for the future there are lots of twists to come.
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