Spinning Information for Better Memory

17 December 2010

The University of Sydney's Dr Dane McCamey and his international colleagues have demonstrated that the spin of atomic nuclei in silicon can store information for over one hundred seconds and, importantly, that this information can then be read out electrically - a critical step in linking the emerging field of spintronics with classical electronics.

Whilst others have shown that spin information can be processed in silicon, until now no effective way to store that information had been found. One limiting factor with current computers is the heat produced when moving electrons around. The heat limits the speeds at which computers can operate so using a system that needs less energy means information can be processed faster.

"Storing information in spins satisfies this requirement as it takes less energy to flip a spin over than to move an electron around," explains McCamey, a quantum physicist based within the School of Physics, and lead author of a paper published in Science.

"Finding a system compatible with silicon, the main material used in the semiconductor industry is particularly useful as it has the potential to be incorporated into existing technology. We could then integrate spin based information storage and processing devices onto a single chip."

These are the first experiments to controllably flip the state of nuclear spins in silicon between a "0" and a "1" and then read out the effect this has on an electric current.

These experiments were only made possible by using unique equipment for controlling electronic and nuclear spins in high magnetic fields and at very low temperatures at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) in Tallahassee, Florida.

Carrying out the research, which is soon to be published in the journal Science, was an international team of quantum physicists - Dane McCamey, Hans van Tol, Gavin Morley and Christoph Boehme.

The paper is titled "Electronic Spin Storage in an Electrically Readable Nuclear Spin Memory with a Lifetime >100 Seconds" by Dane R. McCamey (Universities of Sydney and Utah), Hans van Tol (National High Magnetic Field Laboratory - NHMFL), Gavin W. Morley (London Centre for Nanotechnology and University College London) and Christoph Boehme (University of Utah).

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council, the UK Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, the UK EPSRC COMPASSS grant, the US National Science Foundation and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL). The NHMFL is funded by the State of Florida, the US Department of Energy, and the US National Science Foundation.

Contact: Dr Dane McCamey

Phone: +61 449 823 032

Email: 073b3b124d0735260b202e0f0b4b4d01573709741c081e7c1307