Researchers develop technique to control and measure electron spin voltage

Researchers develop technique to control and measure electron spin voltage

Information technologies of the future will likely use electron spin -- rather than electron charge -- to carry information. But first, scientists need to better understand how to control spin and learn to build the spin equivalent of electronic components, from spin transistors, to spin gates and circuits.

Now, Harvard University researchers have developed a technique to control and measure spin voltage, known as spin chemical potential. The technique, which uses atomic-sized defects in diamonds to measure chemical potential, is essentially a nanoscale spin multimeter that allows measurements in chip-scale devices.

The research is published in Science.

"There is growing interest in insulating materials that can conduct spin," said Amir Yacoby, Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and of Applied Physics at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and senior author of the paper. "Our work develops a new way to look at these spins in materials such as magnets."

In conducting materials, electrons can carry information by moving from point A to point B. This is an electric current. Spin, on the other hand, can propagate through insulating materials in waves -- each electron standing still and communicating spin to its coupled neighbor, like a quantum game of telephone.

To drive these waves from point A to point B, the researchers needed to develop a technique to increase the spin chemical potential -- spin voltage -- at a local level.

"If you have a high chemical potential at location A and a low chemical potential at location B, spin waves start diffusing from A to B," said Chunhui Du, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Physics and co-first author of the paper. "This is a very important concept in spintronics, because if you are able to control spin-wave transport, then you can use these spin waves instead of electrical current as carriers of information."



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