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Spintronics at the Atomic Level
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Spintronics at the Atomic Level

June 14, 2010
Spintronics at the Atomic Level Spintronics at the atomic level. Substitution of magnetic atoms (manganese) into a semiconductor (gallium arsenide) creates the material for future electronics. Spins of the magnetic atoms interact via a cloud of electrons, which can be visualized using a scanning tunneling microscope. The image is a composite of microscopic visualization of electron cloud together with a model of the gallium arsenide crystal structure. This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant DMR 05-14522. (Date of Image: July 2006) More about this ImageA team of scientists has turned semiconductors into magnets by precisely replacing individual metal atoms in the material used to make computer chips. The ability to manipulate semiconductors at the atomic level could eventually revolutionize computers. Computers use two different kinds of technology to calculate results and store data. Semiconductor chips do the calculating, while data storage has generally been accomplished with magnetic materials within floppy disks or reels of tape. By combining these two functions into a single device, the size and energy requirements of computer hardware could be significantly reduced--a perennial goal of the industry. The researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to move single atoms in the chip material to give it magnetic properties. They will now perform experiments to see how additional atomic maneuvers affect the semiconductors performance. The team, composed of researchers from Princeton University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Iowa, was supported by NSF and the U.S. Army Research Office. For more information, see Princeton University's press release "Scientists Build Magnetic Semiconductors One Atom at a Time.