Industrially produced wafer with memory units resulting from the joint research projects at the universities of Mainz and Kaiserslautern

Spintronics research accelerated into industry

Breakthroughs in spintronics and materials science will be fast tracked to industry thanks to two joint research projects.

The Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany have teamed up to intitiate two large-scale projects, with a combined budget of €3.8 million, to speed the transition of advances from university to industry.

It is hoped the initiative will speed up the process of conversion of research into marketable procedures and products and it is being support through the German Government’s "Wachstum durch Innovation" (Growth through Innovation) program.

Minister of Science Doris Ahnen said: "The two projects will not only enable us to ensure that our universities remain at the cutting edge in the fields of materials science and spintronics in future, but will also make a very important contribution to helping companies in Rhineland-Palatinate gain quick and easy access to innovation-relevant expertise in these high-tech areas.”

Spintronics is a new field of electronics that exploits both the intrinsic quantum property of spin in an electron and its associated magnetic moment – a measure of the object's tendency to align with a magnetic field.

The Spintronic Technology Platform in Rhineland-Palatinate (STeP) has been designed to bolster research into and the development of magnetic coating systems, which are particularly suitable for use in products such as sensors and memory storage units with significant commercial potential in areas such the automotive industry, automation, bioanalytics, and security technology.

At the core of the research being undertaken by STeP are so-called Heusler materials, which are an important material class in spintronics, and the objective is to develop "building block systems" using state-of-the-art coating systems, which can be adapted to a variety of technological challenges.

In a new approach, the results of academic research are being immediately transferred onto an industrial production line that meets industry standards – seen as an important requirement for experimental data to be transformed into conventional production processes in the semi-conductor industry.

Researchers have partnered with the company Sensitec GmbH, which recently gained prominence as a supplier of sensors for the Mars Rover Curiosity.

The aim of the Technology Transfer Service Centre for New Materials (TT-DINEMA) project is to establish a service centre providing original new material concepts to benefit various fields, ranging from solar technology through medical technology to thermoelectrics.

Again, Heusler compounds are at the focus of attention, as these relatively simple chemical compounds have a diverse range of physical characteristics but can be relatively easily manufactured, making them suitable for use in various products, such as solar cells, semi-conductors and systems generating power from waste heat.

In addition to their broad application potential, the materials are also interesting from the commercial point of view because of their low cost, sustainability, environmental friendliness, and ease of processing.

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