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Spintronics (a portmanteau meaning "spin transport electronics"[1][2][3]), also known as spinelectronics or fluxtronic, is an emerging technology exploiting both the intrinsic spin of the electron and its associated magnetic moment, in addition to its fundamental electronic charge, in solid-state devices.

Spintronics differs from the older magnetoelectronics, in that the spins are not only manipulated by magnetic fields, but also by electrical fields.


Spintronics emerged from discoveries in the 1980s concerning spin-dependent electron transport phenomena in solid-state devices. This includes the observation of spin-polarized electron injection from a ferromagnetic metal to a normal metal by Johnson and Silsbee (1985),[4] and the discovery of giant magnetoresistance independently by Albert Fert et al.[5] and Peter Grünberg et al. (1988).[6] The origins of spintronics can be traced back even further to the ferromagnet/superconductor tunneling experiments pioneered by Meservey and Tedrow, and initial experiments on magnetic tunnel junctions by Julliere in the 1970s.[7] The use of semiconductors for spintronics can be traced back at least as far as the theoretical proposal of a spin field-effect-transistor by Datta and Das in 1990.[8]

In 2012, IBM scientists mapped the creation of persistent spin helices of synchronized electrons persisting for more than a nanosecond. This is a 30-fold increase from the previously observed results and is longer than the duration of a modern processor clock cycle, which opens new paths to investigate for using electron spins for information processing.[9]


The spin of the electron is an angular momentum intrinsic to the electron that is separate from the angular momentum due to its orbital motion. The magnitude of the projection of the electron's spin along an arbitrary axis is \frac{1}{2}\hbar, implying that the electron acts as a Fermion by the spin-statistics theorem. Like orbital angular momentum, the spin has an associated magnetic moment, the magnitude of which is expressed as


In a solid the spins of many electrons can act together to affect the magnetic and electronic properties of a material, for example endowing a material with a permanent magnetic moment as in a ferromagnet.

In many materials, electron spins are equally present in both the up and the down state, and no transport properties are dependent on spin. A spintronic device requires generation or manipulation of a spin-polarized population of electrons, resulting in an excess of spin up or spin down electrons. The polarization of any spin dependent property X can be written as


A net spin polarization can be achieved either through creating an equilibrium energy splitting between spin up and spin down such as putting a material in a large magnetic field (Zeeman effect) or the exchange energy present in a ferromagnet; or forcing the system out of equilibrium. The period of time that such a non-equilibrium population can be maintained is known as the spin lifetime, \tau. In a diffusive conductor, a spin diffusion length \lambda can also be defined as the distance over which a non-equilibrium spin population can propagate. Spin lifetimes of conduction electrons in metals are relatively short (typically less than 1 nanosecond), and a great deal of research in the field is devoted to extending this lifetime to technologically relevant timescales.

A plot showing a spin up, spin down, and the resulting spin polarized population of electrons. Inside a spin injector, the polarization is constant, while outside the injector, the polarization decays exponentially to zero as the spin up and down populations go to equilibrium.

There are many mechanisms of decay for a spin polarized population, but they can be broadly classified as spin-flip scattering and spin dephasing. Spin-flip scattering is a process inside a solid that does not conserve spin, and can therefore send an incoming spin up state into an outgoing spin down state. Spin dephasing is the process wherein a population of electrons with a common spin state becomes less polarized over time due to different rates of electron spin precession. In confined structures, spin dephasing can be suppressed, leading to spin lifetimes of milliseconds in semiconductor quantum dots at low temperatures.

By studying new materials and decay mechanisms, researchers hope to improve the performance of practical devices as well as study more fundamental problems in condensed matter physics.

Metal-based spintronic devices[edit]

The simplest method of generating a spin-polarised current in a metal is to pass the current through a ferromagnetic material. The most common applications of this effect involve giant magnetoresistance (GMR) devices. A typical GMR device consists of at least two layers of ferromagnetic materials separated by a spacer layer. When the two magnetization vectors of the ferromagnetic layers are aligned, the electrical resistance will be lower (so a higher current flows at constant voltage) than if the ferromagnetic layers are anti-aligned. This constitutes a magnetic field sensor.

Two variants of GMR have been applied in devices: (1) current-in-plane (CIP), where the electric current flows parallel to the layers and (2) current-perpendicular-to-plane (CPP), where the electric current flows in a direction perpendicular to the layers.

Other metals-based spintronics devices:

  • Tunnel magnetoresistance (TMR), where CPP transport is achieved by using quantum-mechanical tunneling of electrons through a thin insulator separating ferromagnetic layers.
  • Spin-transfer torque, where a current of spin-polarized electrons is used to control the magnetization direction of ferromagnetic electrodes in the device.
  • Spin-wave logic devices utilize the phase to carry information. Interference and spin-wave scattering are utilized to perform logic operations.

Spintronic-logic devices[edit]

Non-volatile spin-logic devices to enable scaling beyond the year 2025[10] are being extensively studied. Spin-transfer torque-based logic devices that use spins and magnets for information processing have been proposed[11] and are being extensively studied at Intel.[12] These devices are now part of the ITRS exploratory road map and have potential for inclusion in future computers. Logic-in memory applications are already in the development stage at Crocus[13] and NEC.[14]


Read heads of modern hard drives are based on the GMR or TMR effect.

Motorola has developed a first-generation 256 kb magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) based on a single magnetic tunnel junction and a single transistor and which has a read/write cycle of under 50 nanoseconds.[15] (Everspin, Motorola's spin-off, has since developed a 4 Mb version[16]). There are two second-generation MRAM techniques currently in development: thermal-assisted switching (TAS)[17] which is being developed by Crocus Technology, and spin-transfer torque (STT) on which Crocus, Hynix, IBM, and several other companies are working.[18]

Another design in development, called racetrack memory, encodes information in the direction of magnetization between domain walls of a ferromagnetic metal wire.

There are magnetic sensors using the GMR effect.

Semiconductor-based spintronic devices[edit]

Much recent research has focused on the study of dilute ferromagnetism in doped semiconductor materials. In recent years, Dilute magnetic oxides (DMOs) including ZnO based DMOs and TiO2-based DMOs have been the subject of numerous experimental and computational investigations.[19][20] Non-oxide ferromagnetic semiconductor sources (like manganese-doped gallium arsenide GaMnAs),[21] increase the interface resistance with a tunnel barrier,[22] or using hot-electron injection.[23]

Spin detection in semiconductors is another challenge, met with the following techniques:

  • Faraday/Kerr rotation of transmitted/reflected photons[24]
  • Circular polarization analysis of electroluminescence[25]
  • Nonlocal spin valve (adapted from Johnson and Silsbee's work with metals)[26]
  • Ballistic spin filtering[27]

The latter technique was used to overcome the lack of spin-orbit interaction and materials issues to achieve spin transport in silicon, the most important semiconductor for electronics.[28]

Because external magnetic fields (and stray fields from magnetic contacts) can cause large Hall effects and magnetoresistance in semiconductors (which mimic spin-valve effects), the only conclusive evidence of spin transport in semiconductors is demonstration of spin precession and dephasing in a magnetic field non-collinear to the injected spin orientation. This is called the Hanle effect.


Applications using spin-polarized electrical injection have shown threshold current reduction and controllable circularly polarized coherent light output.[29] Examples include semiconductor lasers. Future applications may include a spin-based transistor having advantages over MOSFET devices such as steeper sub-threshold slope.

Magnetic-tunnel transistor: The magnetic-tunnel transistor with a single base layer, by van Dijken et al. and Jiang et al.,[30] has the following terminals:

  • Emitter (FM1): It injects spin-polarized hot electrons into the base.
  • Base (FM2): Spin-dependent scattering takes place in the base. It also serves as a spin filter.
  • Collector (GaAs): A Schottky barrier is formed at the interface. This collector regions only collects electrons when they have enough energy to overcome the Schottky barrier, and when there are states available in the semiconductor.

The magnetocurrent (MC) is given as:

MC = \frac{I_{c,p}-I_{c,ap}}{I_{c,ap}}

And the transfer ratio (TR) is

TR = \frac{I_C}{I_E}

MTT promises a highly spin-polarized electron source at room temperature.

Ferromagnetic versus Antiferromagnetic Storage Media[edit]

Recently also antiferromagnetic storage media have been studied, whereas hitherto always ferromagnetism has been used.,[31] especially since with antiferromagnetic material the bits 0 and 1 can as well be stored as with ferromagnetic material (instead of the usual definition 0 -> 'magnetisation upwards', 1 -> 'magnetisation downwards', one may define, e.g., 0 -> 'vertically-alternating spin configuration' and 1 -> 'horizontally-alternating spin configuration'.[32]).

The main advantages of using antiferromagnetic material are

  • first, the non-sensitivity against perturbations by stray fields, and
  • secondly, the by far shorter switching times.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wolf, S. A.; Chtchelkanova, A. Y.; Treger, D. M. (2006). "Spintronics—A retrospective and perspective". IBM Journal of Research and Development 50: 101. doi:10.1147/rd.501.0101.  edit
  2. ^ Physics Profile: "Stu Wolf: True D! Hollywood Story"[dead link]
  3. ^ Spintronics: A Spin-Based Electronics Vision for the Future. Sciencemag.org (16 November 2001). Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  4. ^ Johnson, M.; Silsbee, R. H. (1985). "Interfacial charge-spin coupling: Injection and detection of spin magnetization in metals". Physical Review Letters 55 (17): 1790–1793. Bibcode:1985PhRvL..55.1790J. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.55.1790. PMID 10031924.  edit
  5. ^ Baibich, M. N.; Broto, J. M.; Fert, A.; Nguyen Van Dau, F. N.; Petroff, F.; Etienne, P.; Creuzet, G.; Friederich, A.; Chazelas, J. (1988). "Giant Magnetoresistance of (001)Fe/(001)Cr Magnetic Superlattices". Physical Review Letters 61 (21): 2472–2475. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.61.2472. PMID 10039127.  edit
  6. ^ Binasch, G.; Grünberg, P.; Saurenbach, F.; Zinn, W. (1989). "Enhanced magnetoresistance in layered magnetic structures with antiferromagnetic interlayer exchange". Physical Review B 39 (7): 4828. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.39.4828.  edit
  7. ^ Julliere, M. (1975). "Tunneling between ferromagnetic films". Physics Letters A 54 (3): 225–201. Bibcode:1975PhLA...54..225J. doi:10.1016/0375-9601(75)90174-7.  edit
  8. ^ Datta, S. and Das, B. (1990). "Electronic analog of the electrooptic modulator". Applied Physics Letters 56 (7): 665–667. Bibcode:1990ApPhL..56..665D. doi:10.1063/1.102730. 
  9. ^ Walser, M.; Reichl, C.; Wegscheider, W. and Salis, G. (2012). "Direct mapping of the formation of a persistent spin helix". Nature Physics 8 (10): 757. Bibcode:2012NatPh...8..757W. doi:10.1038/nphys2383. 
  10. ^ International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors
  11. ^ Behin-Aein, B.; Datta, D.; Salahuddin, S.; Datta, S. (2010). "Proposal for an all-spin logic device with built-in memory". Nature Nanotechnology 5 (4): 266–270. doi:10.1038/nnano.2010.31. PMID 20190748.  edit
  12. ^ Manipatruni, Sasikanth; Nikonov, Dmitri E. and Young, Ian A. (2011) [1112.2746] Circuit Theory for SPICE of Spintronic Integrated Circuits. Arxiv.org. Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  13. ^ Crocus Partners With Starchip To Develop System-On-Chip Solutions Based on Magnetic-Logic-Unit™ (MLU) Technology. crocus-technology.com. 8 December 2011
  14. ^ Groundbreaking New Technology for Improving the Reliability of Spintronics Logic Integrated Circuits. Nec.com. 11 June 2012.
  15. ^ Spintronics. Sigma-Aldrich. Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  16. ^ Everspin. Everspin. Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  17. ^ Hoberman, Barry. The Emergence of Practical MRAM. crocustechnology.com
  18. ^ LaPedus, Mark (18 June 2009) Tower invests in Crocus, tips MRAM foundry deal. eetimes.com
  19. ^ Assadi, M.H.N; Hanaor, D.A.H (2013). "Theoretical study on copper's energetics and magnetism in TiO2 polymorphs". Journal of Applied Physics 113 (23): 233913. arXiv:1304.1854. Bibcode:2013JAP...113w3913A. doi:10.1063/1.4811539. 
  20. ^ Ogale, S.B (2010). "Dilute doping, defects, and ferromagnetism in metal oxide systems.". Advanced Materials 22 (29): 3125–3155. doi:10.1002/adma.200903891. 
  21. ^ Jonker, B.; Park, Y.; Bennett, B.; Cheong, H.; Kioseoglou, G.; Petrou, A. (2000). "Robust electrical spin injection into a semiconductor heterostructure". Physical Review B 62 (12): 8180. Bibcode:2000PhRvB..62.8180J. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.62.8180.  edit
  22. ^ Hanbicki, A. T.; Jonker, B. T.; Itskos, G.; Kioseoglou, G.; Petrou, A. (2002). "Efficient electrical spin injection from a magnetic metal/tunnel barrier contact into a semiconductor". Applied Physics Letters 80 (7): 1240. arXiv:cond-mat/0110059. Bibcode:2002ApPhL..80.1240H. doi:10.1063/1.1449530.  edit
  23. ^ Jiang, X.; Wang, R.; Van Dijken, S.; Shelby, R.; MacFarlane, R.; Solomon, G.; Harris, J.; Parkin, S. (2003). "Optical Detection of Hot-Electron Spin Injection into GaAs from a Magnetic Tunnel Transistor Source". Physical Review Letters 90 (25). Bibcode:2003PhRvL..90y6603J. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.90.256603.  edit
  24. ^ Kikkawa, J.; Awschalom, D. (1998). "Resonant Spin Amplification in n-Type GaAs". Physical Review Letters 80 (19): 4313. Bibcode:1998PhRvL..80.4313K. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.80.4313.  edit
  25. ^ Jonker, Berend T. Polarized optical emission due to decay or recombination of spin-polarized injected carriers – US Patent 5874749. Issued on 23 February 1999.
  26. ^ Lou, X.; Adelmann, C.; Crooker, S. A.; Garlid, E. S.; Zhang, J.; Reddy, K. S. M.; Flexner, S. D.; Palmstrøm, C. J.; Crowell, P. A. (2007). "Electrical detection of spin transport in lateral ferromagnet–semiconductor devices". Nature Physics 3 (3): 197. Bibcode:2007NatPh...3..197L. doi:10.1038/nphys543.  edit
  27. ^ Appelbaum, I.; Huang, B.; Monsma, D. J. (2007). "Electronic measurement and control of spin transport in silicon". Nature 447 (7142): 295–298. doi:10.1038/nature05803. PMID 17507978.  edit
  28. ^ Žutić, I.; Fabian, J. (2007). "Spintronics: Silicon twists". Nature 447 (7142): 268–269. doi:10.1038/447269a. PMID 17507969.  edit
  29. ^ Holub, M.; Shin, J.; Saha, D.; Bhattacharya, P. (2007). "Electrical Spin Injection and Threshold Reduction in a Semiconductor Laser". Physical Review Letters 98 (14). Bibcode:2007PhRvL..98n6603H. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.98.146603.  edit
  30. ^ Van Dijken, S.; Jiang, X.; Parkin, S. S. P. (2002). "Room temperature operation of a high output current magnetic tunnel transistor". Applied Physics Letters 80 (18): 3364. doi:10.1063/1.1474610.  edit
  31. ^ See, e.g.: Jungwirth, T., announcement of a colloqium talk at the physics faculty of a bavarian university, 28 April 2014: Relativistic Approaches to Spintronics with Antiferromagnets. [1]
  32. ^ This corresponds mathematically to the transition from the rotation group SO(3) to its relativistiv covering, the "double group" SU(2)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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300 news items

R & D Magazine

R & D Magazine
Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:48:45 -0700

Hugo Dil with the SrTiO3 insulator. Image: 2014 Hugo Dil Spintronics is a new field of electronics, using electron spin rather than charge. EPFL scientists, working with the Université Paris-Sud and Paul Scherrer Institut have shown that a conventional ...

IEEE Spectrum

IEEE Spectrum
Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:52:30 -0700

The researchers were looking for a way to produce graphene nanoribbons that have the zigzag edges that give the material a strong magnetic property, making it attractive for spintronics. Spintronics exploits the way in which the spin of particles ...

Bryn Mawr Now

Bryn Mawr Now
Mon, 13 Oct 2014 09:07:30 -0700

We therefore need to utilize an electron spin orientation to include extra information in an electron as a data carrier, leading to a new research field of spintronics. Spintronics is a new emerging field based on a combination of three conventional ...

Laser Focus world

Laser Focus world
Wed, 24 Sep 2014 09:10:49 -0700

In spintronics, data are stored by the spins of either electrons or, preferably, atomic nuclei. Spin often is compared with a tiny bar magnet like a compass needle, either pointing up or down--representing one or zero--in an electron or an atom's ...
Sun, 12 Oct 2014 10:03:45 -0700

(Nanowerk News) Spintronics is an emerging field of technology where devices work by manipulating the spin of electrons rather than their charge. The field can bring significant advantages to computer technology, combining higher speeds with lower ...
R & D Magazine
Tue, 21 Oct 2014 04:48:45 -0700

Every electrical device, from a simple lightbulb to the latest microchips, is enabled by the movement of electrical charge, or current. The nascent field of 'spintronics' taps into a different electronic attribute, an intrinsic quantum property known ...

Chemistry World

Chemistry World
Fri, 10 Oct 2014 01:26:15 -0700

Metal-free nanosheets, with only s- and p- electrons, usually show weak spin–orbit coupling and large relaxation times, making them more suitable for use in spintronics. The main issue with current metal-free structures however, is that they lack ...
Printed Electronics World
Sun, 19 Oct 2014 16:47:53 -0700

... edge configurations — scientists have theorized that nanoribbons with zigzag edges are the most magnetic, making them suitable for spintronics applications. (Spintronics devices, unlike conventional electronics, use electrons' spins rather than ...

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