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Aligning Nuclear Spin in Silicon Carbide Achieved


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There are a host of technologies being investigated for replacing current electronics, which are rapidly approaching their theoretical limits. One strong contender is spintronics, which uses the spin of particles to store and process information, instead of charge like current devices. Like other technologies though, bringing spintronics to a usable scale is far from easy, but researchers at the University of Chicago have made a significant step in that direction.

Spin is a fundamental property of many particles, including electrons and atomic nuclei, and is what leads to magnetism. Because it is a characteristic of particles, spintronic devices would require very little power to operate and none to store data, unlike current technologies. Working with spin can be difficult though, especial the spin of atomic nuclei because they are very sensitive to their environment. Normally to align nuclei requires cooling the atoms to ultracold temperatures, but the Chicago researchers have successfully aligned nuclei in silicon carbide (SiC) at room temperature. This has been achieved by optically cooling the atoms and manipulating imperfections in the SiC crystals called color-centers. The nuclei will not directly interact with light, but the electrons in these color-centers do, and their alignment can be transferred to the nuclei.

This new method has managed to align better than 99% of the spins of certain atoms in the SiC, which is far better than the one to ten in a million that MRI machines can align with their powerful magnetic fields. Making this technique even more interesting is that SiC is already used extensive in the electronics and opto-electronics industries, making it easily accessible for producing advanced prototypes.

Source: University of Chicago

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