Traditional silicon chips in computers and other electronic devices control the flow of electrical current by modifying the positive or negative charge of different parts of each tiny circuit. However it is also possible to use of the mysterious magnetic properties of electrons - know as “spin” - to control the movement of currents. Many large companies have spent millions of dollars trying to solve some of the problems faced by this technology, but progress has remained slow. Discoveries made in Oxford solve several of the most difficult problems and open up this exciting new world of possibilities.
Central to the success of modern electronics is the transistor. A transistor is a switch that controls the flow of electrical current. A modern computer chip contains many millions of tiny transistors; each acting as a tiny switch where a small current is used to control the flow of a larger current.
A spin transistor uses the spin properties of the electrons within it, to control the flow of a current. The big advantage of this approach is that the spin (or magnetic state) of a transistor can be set and then will not change, so unlike a normal electrical circuit that requires a continuous supply of power, a spin transistor remains in the same magnetic state even when power is removed! Producing a spin transistor that can be included in a modern silicon chip is a significant challenge, but scientists at Oxford have developed a spin transistor that works up to 1,000 times better than previous designs making this a real possibility!
Kim Evans | alfa
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