He is one of many scientists who believe that magnets could revolutionize computing, forming the basis of high-capacity and low-energy memory, data storage and data transfer devices.
Today, in a commentary in Science, Zutic and fellow UB physicist John Cerne, who studies magnetism experimentally, discuss an exciting advancement: A study by Japanese scientists showing that it is possible to turn a material's magnetism on and off at room temperature.
A material’s magnetism is determined by a property all electrons possess: something called “spin.” Electrons can have an “up” or “down” spin, and a material is magnetic when most of its electrons possess the same spin. Individual spins are akin to tiny bar magnets, which have north and south poles.
In the Japanese study, which also appears in the current issue of Science, a team led by researchers at Tohoku University added cobalt to titanium dioxide, a nonmagnetic semiconductor, to create a new material that, like a chameleon, can transform from a paramagnet (a nonmagnetic material) to a ferromagnet (a magnetic material) at room temperature.
To achieve change, the researchers applied an electric voltage to the material, exposing the material to extra electrons. As Zutic and Cerne explain in their commentary, these additional electrons -- called "carriers" -- are mobile and convey information between fixed cobalt ions that causes the spins of the cobalt electrons to align in one direction.
In an interview, Zutic calls the ability to switch a magnet "on" or "off" revolutionary. He explains the promise of magnet- or spin-based computing technology -- called "spintronics" -- by contrasting it with conventional electronics.
Modern, electronic gadgets record and read data as a blueprint of ones and zeros that are represented, in circuits, by the presence or absence of electrons. Processing information requires moving electrons, which consumes energy and produces heat.
Spintronic gadgets, in contrast, store and process data by exploiting electrons' "up" and "down" spins, which can stand for the ones and zeros devices read. Future energy-saving improvements in data processing could include devices that process information by "flipping" spin instead of shuttling electrons around.
In their Science commentary, Zutic and Cerne write that chameleon magnets could "help us make more versatile transistors and bring us closer to the seamless integration of memory and logic by providing smart hardware that can be dynamically reprogrammed for optimal performance of a specific task."
"Large applied magnetic fields can enforce the spin alignment in semiconductor transistors," they write. "With chameleon magnets, such alignment would be tunable and would require no magnetic field and could revolutionize the role ferromagnets play in technology."
In an interview, Zutic says that applying an electric voltage to a semiconductor injected with cobalt or other magnetic impurities may be just one way of creating a chameleon magnet.
Applying heat or light to such a material could have a similar effect, freeing electrons that can then convey information about spin alignment between ions, he says.
The so-far elusive heat-based chameleon magnets were first proposed by Zutic in 2002. With his colleagues, Andre Petukhov of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and Steven Erwin of the Naval Research Laboratory, he elucidated the behavior of such magnets in a 2007 paper.
The concept of nonmagnetic materials becoming magnetic as they heat up is counterintuitive, Zutic says. Scientists had long assumed that orderly, magnetic materials would lose their neat, spin alignments when heated -- just as orderly, crystalline ice melts into disorderly water as temperatures rise.
The carrier electrons, however, are the key. Because heating a material introduces additional carriers that can cause nearby electrons to adopt aligned spins, heating chameleon materials -- up to a certain temperature -- should actually cause them to become magnetic, Zutic explains. His research on magnetism is funded by the Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.
Charlotte Hsu | Newswise Science News
NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth
17.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Pluto's hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet colder than expected
16.11.2017 | University of California - Santa Cruz
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses