Scientists discover new clues for extending storage times in spintronics

Cincinnati (OH) - Researchers from the University of Cincinnati and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering say they have found a way to extend the time spinning electrons can retain stored information by a factor of 1000x.

The new advances bring the maximum storage time to only about one second, but researchers believe that "spintronics" will lead the way to smaller, faster and smarter computing devices.

In order to increase the storage time, the team of Supriyo Bandyopadhyay, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the VCU School of Engineering, looked for ways to keep electrons spinning, which ensures that encoded information isn't lost. Scientists describe the time frame of an electron losing spin as "spin relaxation time" - which typically lasts from a few nanoseconds to a few microseconds in most materials. However, Bandyopadhyay claims that the use of nanostructures built from organic molecules that include carbon and hydrogen atoms can extend the spin relaxation time into the range of one second.

The researchers also were able to determine that spin relaxation in organic material primarily occurs when the electron collides with another electron, or any other obstacle it encounters when moving through the organic material. Bandyopadhyay believes that this knowledge will help to develop technologies to extend spin relaxation times.

"The organic spin valves we developed are based on self-assembled structures grown on flexible substrates which could have a tremendous impact on the rapidly developing field of plastic electronics, such as flexible panel displays," said Marc Cahay, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. "If the organic compounds can be replaced by biomaterials, this would also open news areas of research for biomedical and bioengineering applications, such as ultra-sensitive sensors for early detection of various diseases," he said.