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The new spintronics device uses the first room-temperature magnetic organic polymer, V(TCNE).  (Source: OSU/Epstein Group/Nature)

Arthur Epstein (left, front) is a leader in the field of spintronics.  (Source: OSU/Epstein Group)

Spintronics memory and other circuits could prevent devices like the iPad from overheating and having to take a trip to the freezer.  (Source: ImageFrog)
New plastic device stores information using magnetism, could eventually replace traditional memory

When people think of a magnetic strip performing a useful purpose, the first thing to pop into mind might be the little strip on the back of their credit or debit cards.  Now a new type of magnetic technology could transform the way our computers run.

Researchers at Ohio State University claim to have created the world's first functioning plastic "spintronics" device.  "Spintronics" is a field of electronics dealing with controlling the spins of electrons to store information.  Spintronics is viewed as a possible replacement to traditional silicon flash memory and even processing electronics.  The new technology uses less space, processes data faster, and consumes less power than its silicon brethren.

OSU's implementation of an organic spintronics device used a thin strip of dark blue organic-based magnet, layered with an iron based ferromagnet, and attached to two electrical leads.

Arthur J. Epstein, Distinguished University Professor of physics and chemistry and director of theInstitute for Magnetic and Electronic Polymers at Ohio State, led the study.  The key to it, he says, was the magnetic polymer semiconductor vanadium tetracyanoethanide which he developed with long-standing collaborator Joel S. Miller of the University of Utah.  Vanadium tetracyanoethanide is the first organic-based magnet that operates above room temperature.  It is perhaps fitting that this revolutionary material was applied to such a revolutionary field of computing.

Why are spintronics circuits so promising?  Typical electric circuits use differing levels of charge to assign a logical value of 0 or 1.  To operate, computers much shuffle charge around, flipping bits.  The transfer of electricity creates a great deal of waste heat -- hence the metal coolers and fans on your computer's processors (or the reason a fan-less iPad shuts down on a sunny summer day).

Spintronics, by contrast, assign 0s and 1s based on which spin most of the electrons in the component have.  Changing the spin simply requires the application of a magnetic field -- a process that creates much less heat than transferring charge, and can potentially use less energy.  It also results in a higher circuit density as twice as much information can be stored per electron.

Epsetin remarks, "Spintronics is often just seen as a way to get more information out of an electron, but really it’s about moving to the next generation of electronics. We could solve many of the problems facing computers today by using spintronics."

"We would love to take portable electronics to a spin platform.  Think about soldiers in the field who have to carry heavy battery packs, or even civilian ‘road warriors’ commuting to meetings. If we had a lighter weight spintronic device which operates itself at a lower energy cost, and if we could make it on a flexible polymer display, soldiers and other users could just roll it up and carry it. We see this portable technology as a powerful platform for helping people."

To test the device's recording capabilities the researchers exposed it to an alternating magnetic field.  They then measured the electric current passing through the devices magnetic layers (the organic polymer and a base inorganic metallic film).

The best part of all is that the patented technology should be easy to commercialize using existing processes.  OSU postdoctoral researcher Jung-Woo Yoo, who played a key role in the study states, "Any place that makes computer chips could do this. Plus, in this case, we made the device at room temperature, and the process is very eco-friendly."

The paper on the device is published in the August 2010 issue of the journal 
Nature Materials.

The paper is co-authored by Chia-Yi Chen and Vladimir Prigodin of Ohio State, and H.W. Jang, C.W. Bark, and Chang-Beom Eom of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  It received funding from the funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Department of Energy, theNational Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research

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$&@#ing magnets
By XSpeedracerX on 8/11/2010 1:29:18 PM , Rating: 2
How do they work?!

(yeah I know. Sorry couldn't resist..)

RE: $&@#ing magnets
By tastyratz on 8/11/2010 2:08:03 PM , Rating: 3
a double rainbow?!?!?!!!

RE: $&@#ing magnets
By DanNeely on 8/11/2010 2:54:37 PM , Rating: 2
It means you're finally starting to pay attention to your environment.

Since I've started looking most rainbows I've seen have a noticable double arc. :)

RE: $&@#ing magnets
By Silver2k7 on 8/11/2010 5:40:10 PM , Rating: 2
A rainbow is really a circle.. but for some scientific reason from the ground it usually only looks like 50% of the total donutshape ^^

RE: $&@#ing magnets
By Diesel Donkey on 8/13/2010 5:11:34 AM , Rating: 2
The ground gets in the way of the other half.

RE: $&@#ing magnets
By Diesel Donkey on 8/19/2010 3:45:40 AM , Rating: 2
Annnnnd I apparently can't see a joke when it slaps me in the face.

RE: $&@#ing magnets
By d0gb0y on 8/12/2010 9:45:48 AM , Rating: 2
I don’t want to talk to a scientist, ya’ll MF lying and getting me pissed

RE: $&@#ing magnets
By hyvonen on 8/12/2010 4:53:19 PM , Rating: 2
It's not caused by man; it's just solar spots.

Would like to see this coupled....
By theArchMichael on 8/11/2010 1:28:18 PM , Rating: 2
with that flexible organic film display that was posted on DT a while ago. You could roll it up into a receptacle that could hold the flexible (rolled up) materials as well as the inflexible necessary components (solid state storage, IO ports, battery, etc.)

RE: Would like to see this coupled....
By Ammohunt on 8/11/2010 2:19:35 PM , Rating: 2
I can't wait to be able to cover the walls of my house with flexible displays.

By amanojaku on 8/11/2010 4:54:47 PM , Rating: 2
I can't wait to be able to cover the walls of my house with flexible displays.
Me, too. Imagine, supermodel contortionists all over the place!

Go Bucks!
By Rezag3000 on 8/11/2010 3:04:01 PM , Rating: 2
Go Bucks!

RE: Go Bucks!
By Mahazy on 8/11/2010 7:56:35 PM , Rating: 2
/ \ | |
| | - |-| !
\__/ | | ...

RE: Go Bucks!
By beerhound on 8/12/2010 6:43:20 PM , Rating: 2

Word up...
By MrBlastman on 8/11/2010 1:32:01 PM , Rating: 3
I guess we should all refer to Mr. Epstein as the Spin Doctor. ;)

Pretty interesting concept, I am curious to see how applicable it could be to changing RAM over time. I suppose it could also replace Flash-memory as well, seeing how the spin should remain constant until acted upon once again.

RE: Word up...
By invidious on 8/11/2010 1:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
It should be able to work fine as volatile or non-volatile memory. Electrons never stop spinning. I believe the material would need to be sufficiently charged to detect the spin of its electrons. But I don't see any reason the charge in this system would decay and faster than the charge in traditional memory.

Did I get this right?
By YashBudini on 8/11/2010 10:29:35 PM , Rating: 1
"...and can potentially use less energy. "

Is that like a definite maybe?

RE: Did I get this right?
By flaman on 8/15/2010 3:24:47 PM , Rating: 2

By blueeyesm on 8/11/2010 3:47:14 PM , Rating: 2
..puts a whole new spin on things...

I dont think thats quite right
By rfle500 on 8/11/2010 4:25:46 PM , Rating: 2
I think the operation of the device is misunderstood. The state of the system determines the resistance of the device - ie both magnets up is low resistance, one up one down is high resistance. The alternating field changes the state of one of the magnets but not the other. The power reductions come because you no longer need an active source of current to maintain the state (0 or 1) as in a conventional transistor - once set the state is semi-permanent. In fact the application of a large enough magnetic field to switch the state requires more energy than conventional transistors, but the fact that it remembers its state means that overall the energy requirements are lower. Its also interesting as if its applied in RAM for instance, the computer "remembers" its state,so no boot up time at all from a genuine "powered off" state. It can also be used instead of flash cells, but the main problem so far is making the cells small enough, though it seems there are new advances in this direction.

By CowKing on 8/11/2010 6:06:46 PM , Rating: 2
Can I overclock with this or is this just going to stop all overclocking all together? Maybe it's fast enough that I wouldn't need to, but still it's really fun.

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