C-SPIN Develops Spin Materials that Function Well at Room Temperature

Year One Program Summary

(04/01/2014) – The Center for Spintronic Materials, Interfaces, and Novel Architectures (C-SPIN) had several exciting achievements in its first year of operation that moved it closer to its goal of building computer systems that use electron spin as the basis of information storage and transfer. Such systems can potentially be much smaller and require much less energy to operate than current computer systems.

In particular, C-SPIN researchers developed materials for magnetic tunnel junctions, spin channels, and spin interfaces that can function well at room temperature, a key requirement for potential commercialization.

In addition, C-SPIN researchers completed several important device and circuit designs based on the latest studies of the spin Hall effect (SHE), a property of magnetic materials that, until recently, was not well understood but underlies the functionality of spin-based devices.

SHE, named for physicist Edwin Hall, refers to the curved path that electrons follow as they move through a specific material that possesses a large spin-orbital coupling. The curved direction is caused by the interaction between the physical trajectory of the electron and its natural spin, similar to the spin on a golf ball as it curves to the left or right. Circuit designs that incorporate SHE functionality will have positive effects on the future of computing in the areas of cost, efficiency, and speed.

Jian-Ping Wang, a professor at ECE and C-SPIN’s Director, says the Center will continue studying new spintronic materials and interfaces while building a variety of spin-based devices for testing. He also expects the Center to develop refined tools for simulating spintronics devices and circuits.

The Center, which is sponsored by DARPA and the Semiconductor Research Corporation, coordinates research aimed at developing computer systems that use electron spin as the basis of information storage and transfer.

C-SPIN research is carried out by 32 Principal Investigators and 98 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows from 18 U.S. universities, including seven University of Minnesota Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty members and two other faculty members from the Departments of Physics and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.