Leeds University physicists have exploited the spin state of electrons to create a new generation of electronics that require less power and generate less heat.
According to the scientists, the new ‘spin capacitor’ is able of generating and holding the spin state of electrons for a number of hours: Previous attempts have only ever held the spin state for a fraction of a second.
In electronics, a capacitor holds energy in the form of electric charge.
A spin capacitor is a variation on that idea: instead of holding just charge, it also stores (freezes) the spin state of a group of electrons.
That ability to capture the spin state opens up the possibility that new devices could be developed that store information so efficiently that storage devices could get very small.
For example, a spin capacitor measuring just one square inch could store up to 100 Terabytes of data.
“This is a small but significant breakthrough in what could become a revolution in electronics driven by exploitation of the principles of quantum technology,” notes associate Professor Dr. Oscar Cespedes.
“At the moment, up to 70 per cent of the energy used in an electronic device such as a computer or mobile phone is lost as heat, and that is the energy that comes from electrons moving through the device’s circuitry.”
“With quantum effects that use light and eco-friendly elements, there could be no heat loss,” contends Cespedes.
“It means the performance of current technologies can continue to develop in a more efficient and sustainable way that requires much less power.”
The research team were able to develop the spin capacitor by using an advanced materials interface made of a form of carbon called buckminsterfullerene (buckyballs), manganese oxide and a cobalt magnetic electrode.
It is this interface between the nanocarbon and the oxide that makes it possible to trap the spin state of electrons.
Moreover, the time it takes for the spin state to decay has been extended by using the interaction between the carbon atoms in the buckyballs and the metal oxide in the presence of a magnetic electrode.
Image and content: University of Leeds