Though scientists argue that the emerging technology of spintronics may trump conventional electronics for building the next generation of faster, smaller, more efficient computers and high-tech devices, no one has actually seen the spin—a quantum mechanical property of electrons—in individual atoms until now.
The different shape and appearance of these individual cobalt atoms is caused by the different spin directions. (Image courtesy Saw-Wai Hla, Ohio University)
In a study published as an Advance Online Publication in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on Sunday, physicists at Ohio University and the University of Hamburg in Germany present the first images of spin in action.
The researchers used a custom-built microscope with an iron-coated tip to manipulate cobalt atoms on a plate of manganese. Through scanning tunneling microscopy, the team repositioned individual cobalt atoms on a surface that changed the direction of the electrons’ spin. Images captured by the scientists showed that the atoms appeared as a single protrusion if the spin direction was upward, and as double protrusions with equal heights when the spin direction was downward.
The study suggests that scientists can observe and manipulate spin, a finding that may impact future development of nanoscale magnetic storage, quantum computers and spintronic devices.
“Different directions in spin can mean different states for data storage,” said Saw-Wai Hla, an associate professor of physics and astronomy in Ohio University’s Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute and one of the primary investigators on the study. “The memory devices of current computers involve tens of thousands of atoms. In the future, we may be able to use one atom and change the power of the computer by the thousands.”
Unlike electronic devices, which give off heat, spintronic-based devices are expected to experience less power dissipation.
The experiments were conducted in an ultra-high vacuum at the low temperature of 10 Kelvin, with the use of liquid helium. Researchers will need to observe the phenomenon at room temperature before it can be used in computer hard drives.
But the new study suggests a path to that application, said study lead author Andre Kubetzka of the University of Hamburg. To image spin direction, the team not only used a new technique but also a manganese surface with a spin that, in turn, allowed the scientists to manipulate the spin of the cobalt atoms under study.
“The combination of atom manipulation and spin sensitivity gives a new perspective of constructing atomic-scale structures and investigating their magnetic properties,” Kubetzka said.
The research, which was carried out at the University of Hamburg, was supported by the German Research Foundation and a Partnership for International Collaboration and Education (PIRE) grant from National Science Foundation.
The research is the result of a collaboration among three research teams: a spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscopy group of Professor Roland Wiesendanger led by Kubetzka at the University of Hamburg, Germany; Hla, an expert in atom manipulation at Ohio University; and two theorists, Professor Stefan Heinze and Paolo Ferriani, now at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, in Germany.
Contacts: Saw-Wai Hla, (740) 593-1727, email@example.com; Andrea Gibson, director of research communications, (740) 597-2166, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrea Gibson | EurekAlert!
Significantly more productivity in USP lasers
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Earth Sciences
07.12.2016 | Earth Sciences
07.12.2016 | Materials Sciences