New Breakthrough in Information Technology Comes in the Form of Nanoscale Pillars

October 23, 2018

In a recent article in Nature Communications, a team of researchers from Linköping University and the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden put forward a new idea that could change the way we transfer data for good. What they’ve designed is a new device that can effectively transfer information carried by electron spin to light when at room temperature.

At the moment, most information processing and data transfer are done using light and electron charge. But as we evolve, the search for smaller, faster, and more efficient options are being sought out.

One such option that’s being explored more and more today is ‘spintronics’. This is the term used to describe electronics that use both the charge of the electron and the spin in which to work. Electrons spin around their own axis, just like the Earth spins around its axis. But, opposed to being referred to as spinning clockwise or counterclockwise, this rotation is referred to as either a state of spin-up or spin-down.

When it comes to spintronics, the two states encode information before it gets converted into light. It’s then carried over any kind of distance using optic fibers. Transferring quantum information in such a way opens up the idea for future information technology that uses both light and electron spin and the interactions between them to form a new kind of technology called “opto-spintronics”.

With opto-spintronics, the information is transferred in such a way that the spinning state of the electron is what determines the emitted light’s properties. More specifically, it’s the direction of the spin of the electron that determines the rotation of the electric field.

The problem is that when the temperature rises the electrons are more at risk of losing their spin orientations. “A key element for future spin-light applications is efficient quantum information transfer at room temperature, but at room temperature, the electron spin orientation is nearly randomized,” explains Weimin Chen at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, IFM, at Linkӧping University.

To get around that problem, a team of researchers from both Linkӧping University and the Royal Institute have devised an interface that’s efficient in spin-light technology. “This interface can not only maintain and even enhance the electron spin signals at room temperature. It can also convert these spin signals to corresponding chiral light signals traveling in the desired direction,” says Chen.

The device itself is made up from tiny disks of gallium nitrogen arsenide (GaNAs) stacked on top of one another with a thin layer of gallium arsenide (GaAs) placed in-between. And the way it will work is to enhance spin signals so that they’re efficient enough to drain unwanted electrons while preserving those with the correct spin orientation. Hopefully, this device will spur on the likes of other spin-light interfaces and the world of opto-spintronics itself.