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Dec 15 2008   12:08PM GMT

Overheard – Spintronics, the magic of magnets

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

spinning_top.jpg Remember the word “spintronics” as you may be hearing more and more about it over the coming months. It’s basically a phenomenon that creates magnetic currents that behave much in the same way that electric currents work, except with out all the heat that electric currents generate.

Doug Aamoth, Magnetic battery discovery may lead to cooler laptops

Lots of buzz about spintronics since Eiji Saitoh of Keio University in Yokohama, Japan, published an article in Nature about a phenomenon called the spin Seebrook effect. Potentially, spintronic devices would store information magnetically and use magnetism for battery power. (Magnets don’t have waste heat. If scientists can reduce waste heat, it could also help with computer chip miniaturization, lower power consumption and improve speed.)

Here’s a fairly easy-to-understand explanation of spintronics  from Nantotechnology Now:

All spintronic devices act according to the simple scheme: (1) information is stored (written) into spins as a particular spin orientation (up or down), (2) the spins, being attached to mobile electrons, carry the information along a wire, and (3) the information is read at a terminal. pin orientation of conduction electrons survives for a relatively long time (nanoseconds, compared to tens of femtoseconds during which electron momentum decays), which makes spintronic devices particularly attractive for memory storage and magnetic sensors applications, and, potentially for quantum computing where electron spin would represent a bit (called qubit) of information.

Magnetoelectronics, Spin Electronics, and Spintronics are different names for the same thing: the use of electrons’ spins (not just their electrical charge) in information circuits.

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