Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Physicists pin down spin of surface atoms

14.09.2007
Important step toward spin-based quantum computing and spintronics

Scientists who dream of shrinking computers to the nanoscale look to atomic spin as one possible building block for both processor and memory, yet setting the spin of an atom, let alone measuring it, has been a challenge.

Now, University of California, Berkeley, physicists have succeeded in measuring the spin of a single atom, moving one step closer to quantum computers and "spintronic" devices built from nanoscale transistors based on atomic spin.

"From a technical point of view, this demonstrates a new ability to engineer, fabricate and measure spin-polarized nanostructures at the single atom level," said Michael F. Crommie, UC Berkeley professor of physics. "Now that I can see an atom's spin, I can ask, 'What can I do with that atomic spin" Can I manipulate it" Can I use it, change it"' This means we can now start incorporating it into other structures."

Crommie and his colleagues at UC Berkeley and the Center for Computational Materials Science (CCMS) at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., recently reported their success in the journal Physical Review Letters.

At the core of today's digital computers are billions of tiny transistor circuits that, because they can exist in two states, are used to represent the binary digits, or "bits" 0 and 1, which are the basis of all computer manipulations.

As researchers seek to reduce the size of digital computers, they have been searching for nanoscale materials that can do digital duty, one of them being a single atom whose outer unpaired electron can be in either of two spin states - up or down.

While researchers previously have been able to deduce the spin polarization of an atom in a surface or thin film where the atoms are packed together and the spins are in an orderly arrangement, no one had been able to directly measure the polarization of an individual "adatom" spin until now. Adatoms are atoms that sit on top of a surface and are not incorporated into it.

Crommie, UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Yossi Yayon and graduate student Victor W. Brar succeeded by creating islands of cobalt atoms on a cold copper substrate (4.8 Kelvin, or -451 degrees Fahrenheit) and sprinkling these islands with atoms of either iron or chromium.

Employing a relatively new technique called low-temperature spin-polarized scanning tunneling spectroscopy - essentially a scanning, tunneling microscope that can probe the spin and energy-dependent electron density of a surface - they were able to determine the spin of isolated adatoms atop these cobalt nanoislands.

"These magnetic islands are teeny tiny nanomagnets, but from the single-atom perspective they are just large fixed ferromagnets, like a refrigerator magnet," Crommie said. "We took individual atoms and coupled them to these large magnets so we could fix the direction of the spin of an atom and it would stay put."

Crommie's CCMS colleagues, Steve C. Erwin and post-doctoral fellow Laxmidhar Senapati, calculated that in such a situation, iron atoms would assume a spin state parallel to the spins of the atoms in the cobalt island, while chromium would assume an anti-parallel spin, which is exactly what the researchers found.

How spins couple to one another is an important question for a quantum computer, because in a practical device, the spin of an atom would be quantum mechanically intermingled or "entangled" with the spin of other atoms, manipulated in some sort of calculation, and then disentangled to obtain the result. Understanding such interactions also are critical in spintronic devices, where the spin of atoms is used to control the flow of spin-polarized electrons in a circuit.

"We are clearly not yet in a useful regime for quantum computation because the spins we are looking at are very strongly coupled to the environment," Crommie said. "Nevertheless, this measurement is very useful because it shows that we can observe the spin of these atoms and then start to understand the physics of how the surface is influencing the spin of individual atoms. We hope to next control the spin - that is where we are going with this."

Robert Sanders | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.berkeley.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier
29.05.2017 | University of Strathclyde

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>