Graphene for next generation spintronic devices

Advances in the use of large-area graphene could lead to faster and more energy-efficient memory and processors for computers, US scientists have claimed.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have discovered that large-area graphene is able to preserve electron spin over an extended period, and communicate it over greater distances than previously thought.

Saroj Dash, who leads the research group, said: “We believe that these results will attract a lot of attention in the research community and put graphene on the map for applications in spintronic components.”

Spintronics is based on the quantum state of the electrons and although the technology is already being used in advanced hard drives for data storage and magnetic RAM there are major advantages in exploiting spin as an information carrier instead of, or in addition to, electric charges.

Graphene is a prime candidate for extending the use of spintronics in the electronics industry because it is not only a good electrical conductor, but has the potential to maintain electrons with the spin intact, which in most materials is short-lived and fragile.

“In future spin-based components, it is expected that the electrons must be able to travel several tens of micrometers with their spins kept aligned. Metals, such as aluminium or copper, do not have the capacity to handle this. Graphene appears to be the only possible material at the moment,” said Dash.

Today, graphene is produced commercially by a few companies, which are all in the early stages of development.

The progress of a material such as graphene from the moment of discovery to transformative product can be slow, but that general assumption is now being questioned by the findings put forward by the team of researchers.

In their experiment they used CVD graphene, which is produced through chemical vapour deposition. Although it gives the material a lot of wrinkles and other defects there are good prospects for the production of large area graphene on an industrial scale.

Scientists showed that the parameters of spin are up to six times higher than those previously reported for CVD graphene on a similar substrate.

The goal of the researchers is to develop a completely new way of performing logical operations and storing information based on coupling graphene and magnetic materials. If successful, such a concept would take digital technology a step beyond the current dependence on semiconductors.

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