Spintronics — a potentially lucrative emerging field

Development could put a new spin on personal devices

MIT researchers have come up with a new magnetic semiconductor material that could one day lead to dramatically smaller and more powerful electronic devices.

The new material — indium oxide with a splash of chromium — falls into the category of spin-based electronics, or spintronics, in which the spin state of electrons is used to carry, manipulate and store data.

Popular devices like iPods and laptops already use spintronics in their magnetic hard drives, but only to store information. The breakthrough announced by researchers at MIT’s Francis Bitter Magnet Lab involves using the direction of the spin (up or down) to provide an additional level of processing power.

“We can carry information in two ways at once, and this will allow us to further reduce the size of electronic circuits,” says researcher Jagadeesh Moodera. The new magnetic material would sit on top of a conventional silicon chip, injecting electronics of a given spin orientation into the chip.

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