Spintronics_MIT

MIT Scientists Pave the Way for Super-Efficient Electronics using Spintronics

Similar to how transistors function in switching between binary states (0s and 1s) in conventional computing, these magnetic switching devices can perform the same task but with enhanced efficiency and potentially lower energy consumption.
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Introduction

Imagine a world where your computer boots up the instant you press the power button, where data storage devices don’t forget your files. When they’re switched off, and where the battery life of your devices extends beyond what we currently deem possible. This is the work that Deblina Sarkar and her students at MIT have successfully achieved. Researchers at MIT have been successful in changing the spin of electrons in 2D magnetic materials at room temperature Spintronics

This technology is a breakthrough as it marks the dawn of a new era of spintronic devices, which would be used as building blocks of energy efficient computing architectures in the future.

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Spintronics is different from traditional electronics because it uses electron spins as a degree of freedom in addition to charge state.

Background:

Spintronics aims to manipulate electron spin for data storage and logic devices. Achieving this at room temperature (RT) is a major hurdle.

Challenges: Standard spintronic materials often require very cold temperatures to function. Developing materials with robust spin manipulation at RT is an ongoing area of research.

The Heart of the Breakthrough

This revolutionary advancement in computing revolves around the utilization of an ultrathin magnet, which is only a few atoms thick. Despite its minuscule size, this magnet holds the potential to completely redefine the landscape of energy-efficient computing.

Led by Deblina Sarkar and her team, this research has succeeded in discovering a groundbreaking method to manipulate magnetization swiftly and effectively at room temperature. Traditionally, controlling magnetization in materials required extreme conditions, such as very low temperatures, which limited its practical applications. However, Sarkar’s team has overcome this barrier by demonstrating the ability to manipulate magnetization at room temperature using pulses of electrical current.

The significance of this achievement lies in its potential applications

Similar to how transistors function in switching between binary states (0s and 1s) in conventional computing, these magnetic switching devices can perform the same task but with enhanced efficiency and potentially lower energy consumption. This means that they can play a pivotal role in advancing computational tasks, particularly in terms of speed and energy efficiency.

Moreover, these magnetic switching devices can also be employed in computer memory. By leveraging the ability to swiftly switch the magnetization of the device, data storage becomes more efficient and reliable. Essentially, each switch in magnetization represents a bit of data, offering a new avenue for high-density, low-power memory solutions.

In summary, the ability to control magnetization at room temperature using ultrathin magnets opens up a plethora of possibilities for energy-efficient computing. Whether in computational tasks or data storage, this breakthrough promises to revolutionize the way we approach and utilize computing technology.

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How did they do it?

Researcher at MIT

The Research Team led by Debalina Sarkar

The team fired bursts of electrons at a thin Vanderwaal’s magnet that can sustain its magnetism at higher temperatures.

Van der Waals magnets are a class of 2D magnetic materials that exhibit interesting magnetic properties due to the presence of weak van der Waals interactions between their atomic or molecular constituents. Van der Waals interactions are weak attractive forces that exist between molecules or atoms.

The experiment leveraged a fundamental property of electrons in 2D materials. They used spin of electrons. When the spin of a group of electrons in material are changed, they influence other electrons in the vicinity. All electrons are oriented in a single spin making the material magnetized. Thus, by manipulating the spin of electrons, the researchers can switch their magnetization. And this control on magnetic moment can be used to switch logic levels.

The idea is to replace the existing CMOS devices with spintronic devices to form building blocks of energy efficient computers.

Spintronic devices already exist. What makes this research novel is that they have been successful in switching magnetic moments at room temperature. While the concept of two-dimensional Van Der Waal’s magnets existed for decades but those magnets could only work under -200°. So, to harness the capabilities of 2D van der Waals magnets, it was crucial to operate them electrically above room temperature.

Controlling magnetism at room temperature

Controlling magnetism at room temperature is tricky because at higher temperatures, atoms and electrons exhibit thermal motion. This random movement disrupts the ordered alignment of spins.

This new class of magnetic materials have typically only been operated at temperatures below 60 kelvins (-213.15o C). To build a magnetic computer processor or memory, researchers need to use electrical current to operate the magnet at room temperature.

To achieve this, the team focused on an emerging material called iron gallium telluride. This atomically thin material has all the properties needed for effective room temperature.

Moreover, magnetism and doesn’t contain rare earth elements, which are undesirable because extracting them is especially destructive to the environment.

Kajale, a student of Prof. Deblina, fabricated a two-layer magnetic device. The device consists of nanoscale flakes of iron gallium telluride. such as these flakes are layered beneath a six-nanometer layer of platinum.

Moreover, using the intrinsic property of electrons known as spin, they switched the magnetization of the device. Remarkably, this was achieved at room temperature.

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Advantages of using electron spin

Correlated systems, like ferromagnets, offer low-energy device switching. The 2D nature of these materials enables ultimate scalability. It also allows tunability of magnetic and electrical transport properties.

Their benchmarking results show that our 2D neuromorphic devices based neural network can lead to more than 10,000X reduction in energy compared to that based on CMOS for performing machine learning tasks. Thus, our technology can address the energy crisis of the computing industry, lead to massive reduction in greenhouse gases helping to combat climate change and enable environmentally sustainable “Green” AI.

Watch this video by the researchers

Applications of Room temperature Spintronics:

Room temperature spintronics has the potential to revolutionize various fields due to its unique ability to manipulate electron spin at everyday temperatures. Here are some of the major applications it could enable:

  • High-density, low-power electronics: Spintronic devices could be significantly smaller and consume less power compared to conventional electronics. This could lead to miniaturized devices with longer battery life for laptops, phones, and other portable electronics.
  • Non-volatile Magnetic Random-Access Memory (MRAM): MRAM is a type of memory that retains data even after power is off. Spintronics could lead to faster, denser, and more energy-efficient MRAM, making it a strong contender for replacing traditional RAM and flash memory.
  • Spin-based logic devices: Spintronic logic devices could offer advantages like faster processing speeds and lower power consumption compared to traditional transistors. This could lead to more powerful and efficient computers.
  • Quantum computing: Spintronics is a promising candidate for manipulating the qubits (quantum bits) needed for quantum computers. Room temperature spintronics could lead to more practical and scalable quantum computers with groundbreaking computational abilities.
  • Spin-based sensors: Spintronic sensors could detect magnetic fields with much higher sensitivity than current options. This could have applications in medical imaging, security systems, and environmental monitoring.
  • Energy-efficient information processing: Spintronics could lead to a new generation of information processing devices that are more energy-efficient than traditional electronics. This could have a significant impact on data centers and overall energy consumption.

These are just a few potential applications, and the possibilities are still being explored. Room temperature spintronics has the potential to revolutionize various fields by offering new ways to process and store information, leading to significant advancements in electronics, computing, and beyond.

Challenges remain

Despite the excitement surrounding this discovery, the journey from the lab to the living room is fraught with challenges. The rapid oxidation of the magnetic materials necessitates fabrication in controlled environments, such as a hurdle that needs to be overcome for mass production.

The oxidation of spintronic materials occurs mainly due to the presence of transition metals such as iron, zinc, and copper in these materials, which readily form oxides when exposed to oxygen.

Moreover, the team aims to achieve magnetization switching without external magnetic fields, a step that would further solidify the technology’s commercial viability.

Conclusion

The development of 2D magnetic materials for spintronic devices represents a significant breakthrough in the field of neuromorphic computing. Led by researchers at MIT, this innovative approach leverages the unique properties of van der Waals magnets and electron spin to achieve efficient magnetization control at room temperature.

Also, this work indicates a dawn of a new era of computing as the basic units of switching are about to be replaced.

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