The ability to manipulate electrons’ magnetism, in addition to controlling their charge flow, has the potential to create broad new capabilities for computers and other devices and is the basis for an emerging technology called “spintronics.” A major barrier to creating such devices is finding nonvolatile magnetic semiconductor materials, ones that don’t demagnetize easily. So far the only materials found that meet the requirements operate only at a decidedly uncomfortable 200 degrees below zero Celsius, about minus 328 Fahrenheit.
But now researchers at the University of Washington have demonstrated a material — a mixture of zinc oxide and cobalt first formulated in 1780 as a pigment called cobalt green — that appears capable of operating in more suitable environments and would allow electrons to be manipulated both electrically and magnetically.
Silicon-based semiconductors that incorporate many tiny transistors are at the heart of computers and an array of other devices. But while silicon chips allow complex manipulation of electrons based on their charges, current chip technology is not useful for manipulating the electrons’ magnetism, or spin.
Source: University of Washington