Graphene opens door to 'spintronic' tech
Next-gen electronic devices could move beyond 'Moore's Law' Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – June 10, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 6:20am
Recently, advances in theoretical and experimental phenomena in studies surrounding spin transport electronics have emerged providing evidence that graphene and 2D materials could move electronics beyond Moore's Law.
Intel co-founder Gordon Moore postulated that the number of transistors, those tiny on and off switches that represent the standard computer binary system, on an integrated circuit would double every two years and the costs to acquire computing power would be cut in half over the same period.
Holding true since 1975, Moore's postulate has since been elevated to Moore's Law.
Now, there is a chance that graphene could break the computing power "speed limit" of this law by improving and even replacing conventional electronics – becoming a core building block for next generation computers.
This law-breaking ability has to do with spin transport electronics, or its more colloquial portmanteau, spintronics.
Spintronics is a relatively new approach to developing electronics where both memory devices (RAM) and logic devices (transistors) utilize spin, an intrinsic property of electrons that allows them to behave like tiny magnets and generate an electrical charge.
Graphene has been found to be an ideal material for spintronic applications.
"After the first unequivocal demonstration of spin transport in graphene, surprisingly at room temperature, it was quickly realized that this novel material was relevant for both fundamental spintronics and future applications," Ahmet Avsar, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, penned in a recent report on spintronics in graphene and other 2D materials.
Spintronics is a combination of modern electrical components and magnetism, at a nanoscale, that could lead to the next generation of high-speed electronics, and we already see that today, in solid-state hard drives.
Billions of spintronic devices are already being made, as every hard disk drive has a magnetic sensor that uses a flow of spins, and even magnetic random-access memory chips are becoming increasingly popular.
Dr. Ivan Vera Marun, lecturer in condensed matter physics at the University of Manchester said, " the continuous progress in graphene spintronics and more broadly in 2D heterostructures, has resulted in the efficient creation, transport, and detection of spin information using effects previously inaccessible to graphene alone."
The journal further expounds on new perspectives given towards these heterostructures, semiconductors that change due to specific chemical compositions. Further interest is toward custom-tailored heterostructures, known as van der Waals heterostructures, that consist of stacks of two-dimensional materials in a precisely controlled order.
"As efforts on both the fundamental and technological aspects continue, we believe that ballistic spin transport will be realized in 2D heterostructures, even at room temperature. Such transport would enable practical use of the quantum mechanical properties of electron wave functions, bringing spins in 2D materials to the service of future quantum computation approaches," Marun said.
Since the isolation of graphene in 2004, this material made from a single layer of carbon atoms has opened a new door for 2D materials, as researchers can then use these materials to stack. These 2D stacks, or heterostructures, can then be combined with graphene to create new 'designer materials' to produce applications originally limited to science fiction.
Professor Francisco Guinea, who co-authored the paper said the field of spintronics and the manipulation of spins in materials has brought to light a number of novel aspects in the behavior of solids.
"The identification and characterization of new quantum materials with non-trivial topological electronic and magnetic properties is being intensively studied worldwide, after the formulation, in 2004 of the concept of topological insulators," he said. "Spintronics lies at the core of this search. Because of their purity, strength, and simplicity, two dimensional materials are the best platform where to find these unique topological features which relate quantum physics, electronics and magnetism."
Due to the influence of graphene, the field of spintronics and related 2D materials is currently moving towards development of practical graphene spintronic devices for applications in fields of space communication, high-speed radio links, vehicle radar, and interchip communication applications.
More information regarding quantum computing and transistors can be found in Quantum computing closer with germanium in the March 24 edition of Metal Tech News.