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October 16, 2006

Spintronics now able to mix magnetic and semiconductor materials

MIT technology review report on a Spintronic advance. Arthur Smith, professor of physics at Ohio University, and his colleagues have successfully grown manganese gallium, a magnetic metal, on gallium nitride, a common semiconductor that is used to make blue lasers and LEDs, and to amplify radio frequency signals. The researchers say that the spacing of the atoms in the material layers is a near-ideal match, creating a smooth interface between the layers, and thereby increasing the chances of producing a workable spintronics device. Without a clean interface, says Smith, when electrons travel across the barrier between the metal and semiconductor, they can lose their original spin, ruining the device. Moreover, their new system maintains its magnetic properties at room temperature, says Smith.

Proving that the system will work in an actual device is the next step for the researchers. Smith says they will most likely test its light-emitting properties to determine how well the spin of the electrons in the magnetic material translates into polarized light.

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