A Breakthrough in Spin Capacitance Through Quantum State AnalysisApril 16, 2020 by Sam Holland
University of Leeds (UL)-led researchers have discovered a way to greatly improve how efficiently ‘spin’ capacitors can maintain an electric charge. The resultant energy efficiency offers clear benefits to electronics.
Exploiting Spintronics for Next-Gen Electronics
Although previous R&D into spin capacitance has existed for some years, never before has its performance proved so high. In fact, the scientists explain that, until now, spin capacitance technology has only been able to maintain the spin state of electrons for a fraction of a second.
The spintronics research was supervised by Dr. Oscar Cespedes, associate professor in UL’s School of Physics and Astronomy and one of its lead authors was Dr. Matthew Rogers, a postdoctoral research fellow and expert in nanocarbon spintronics.
A Focus on Light and Electric Fields to Control Spin State
The study was intended to exploit spintronics to pave the way, to quote UL’s coverage, for “a new generation of electronics that will require less power and less heat”. Although the research follows former research into spin capacitance—spin capacitors remain a novel variation of traditional capacitors or supercapacitors.
As covered below, the UL-led researchers’ intentions were realized largely due to their use of an advanced materials interface, namely the carbon-based buckminsterfullerene. The technology exploits light and electric fields to maintain the spin state of electrons.
The Importance of Moving to a New Standard of Electronics
Again, the breakthrough of the spin capacitor hinges largely on its circumventing the efficiency issues found in traditional electronics. As Dr. Cespedes explains: "At the moment, up to 70 percent of the energy used in an electronic device is lost as heat, and that is the energy that comes from electrons moving through the device’s circuitry. [This] results in huge inefficiencies and limits the capabilities and sustainability of current technologies.
Dr. Cespedes goes on to address the spin capacitor’s exploitation of quantum effects in computing by further emphasizing the importance of energy efficiency in information technology (due to spintronics’ data encoding capabilities). As Dr. Rogers summarizes: UL’s spintronics research “shows that the devices of the future may not have to rely on magnetic hard disks [to read ones and zeros].”
Instead, they may “have spin capacitors that are operated by light, which would make them very fast, or by an electrical field, which would make them extremely energy-efficient.”
The spin capacitor developed by researchers led by the University of Leeds. Image used courtesy of the University of Leeds
A Material Interface and Spintronics Breakthrough
This spintronics breakthrough is facilitated by the advanced materials interface chosen for the technology’s development: the aforementioned carbon, buckminsterfullerene—alongside manganese oxide, and a cobalt magnetic electrode. As UL’s page explains, it is “the interface between the nanocarbon and the oxide [that] is able to trap the spin state of electrons”.
In keeping with the researchers’ findings, the result is the controlled utilization of both the quantum properties and the said spin state of electrons. This use of spintronics may well have the potential to offer more diverse device functionalities than conventional electronics, given that the former exploits both the charge and the spin of electrons.
Taking Stock of the Spin Capacitor’s Significance
All in all, the spin capacitor’s resultant control over electron spin states has achieved a never-before-seen level of endurance and efficiency in spin capacitance. The researchers say that their spin capacitor will generally usher in “new and novel devices”, with again, its suitability for IT being the most prominent.
With the efficiency issues of traditional magnetic storage devices being a long-standing issue, it is clear why the researchers are positive. To end with a quote from Dr. Cespedes: “This is a small but significant breakthrough in what could become a revolution in electronics driven by the exploitation of the principles of quantum technology”.