Atomically Thin Magnets Could Enable the Next Generation of Spin and Quantum Electronics

May 28, 2020 by Luke James

Researchers from Stevens Institute of Technology have developed a ferromagnetic semiconductor that is able to work at room temperature.

Although electronics are getting smaller and faster, current transistors can only shrink so much—this is one of the industry’s most prominent challenges. 

Now, researchers from the Stevens Institute of Technology have reportedly developed a new atomically thin magnet semiconductor that will enable the development of new transistors that work in a completely different way; by harnessing an electron’s electron charge and the power of its spin.

This may provide a way to create even smaller and faster devices say the researchers, who reported their findings in the April 2020 issue of Nature Communications. 


A ‘Critical Platform’ for Advancing Spintronics

Spintronics—spin transport electronics—is the study of the intrinsic spin of the electron and its associated magnetic moment, in addition to its electronic charge, in solid-state devices. It presents a fundamentally new way to operate electronics and an alternative to the continued miniaturization of standard electronic devices which are predicted to hit their ‘limit’ in the near future due to Moore’s law.

In addition to solving the miniaturization problem, the team’s atomically thin magnet is said to be able to enable faster processing speed, increased storage capacity, and consume less energy. 


Ferromagnetic semiconductor atoms.

A ferromagnetic semiconductor two atoms thick. The green spheres are sulfur, the blue, molybdenum, and red are iron atoms. Image used courtesy of Stevens Institute of Technology

"A two-dimensional ferromagnetic semiconductor is a material in which ferromagnetism and semiconducting properties coexist in one, and since our material works at room temperature, it allows us to readily integrate it with the well-established semiconductor technology," said EH Yang, a mechanical engineering professor at Stevens, who led the project.

"The magnetic field strength in this material is 0.5 mT; while such weak magnetic field strength cannot allow us to pick up a paper clip, it is large enough to alter the spin of electrons, which can be utilized for quantum bits applications," added Stefan Strauf, physics professor at Stevens.

The researchers believe that their development could provide a “critical platform” for advancing the field of spintronics.