In a paper published online today in Science, a group of researchers led by David Awschalom, a professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reports the observation of the spin Hall effect. This publication ends a 33-year long effort aimed at this discovery.
The Hall effect, named after American physicist Edwin Hall who discovered it in 1879, occurs when an electric current flows through a conductor in a magnetic field, creating a measurable transverse voltage. On a fundamental level, this effect originates because the magnetic field exerts a force on the moving charge carriers, which pushes them to one side of the conductor. The resulting buildup of charge at the sides of the conductor ultimately balances this magnetic field- induced force, producing a measurable voltage between opposite sides of the conductor.
In 1971, M.I. D’yakonov and V. I. Perel, two Russian physicists, predicted theoretically that a similar effect is expected in the realm of magnetization or spin physics. While the conventional Hall effect is widely used in today’s sensors and electronics, the spin Hall effect has defied experimental detection for 33 years. In analogy to its more conventional sibling, in the spin Hall effect, current-carrying electrons with opposite spins are predicted to move toward opposite sides of a semiconductor wire even without a magnetic field or magnetic materials.
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