Scientists at International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) & the Solid State Physics Laboratory at ETH Zurich, introduced a breakthrough in spintronics computing through the first-ever direct mapping of a formation of a persistent spin helix in semiconductor, which could lead to the development of more powerful and energy-efficient electronic devices.

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The team of researchers is working together to synchronize electron spins. Their main objective is to use electronic spins in storing, transporting, and processing information. Based on the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Physics, the scientists demonstrated the spin lifetime of a synchronized electron was 30 times longer to 1.1 nanoseconds- the current cycle time of a 1GHz processor.

According to the team of researchers, instead of using its electrical charge, spintronics use the spin of electrons to encode and process data. At present, IBM said the technique is limited because the dimension of the semiconductor continues to shrink to the point where it is already impossible to control the electrons. The scientists believe this problem can be overcome by harnessing the spin of electrons instead of their electrical charge.

The scientists working on the project pointed out their new understanding of spintronics provided them with extraordinary control over the magnetic movements inside devices, with the possibility to create more energy-efficient electronics equipments.

Based on their observation, the electron spins move tens of micrometers in semiconductors similar to a couple dancing the waltz in synchrony. For those who are unfamiliar, the waltz is a famous ballroom dance in Vienna, where couples rotate as they dance.

Gian Salis, one of researchers of the Physics Nanoscale Systems at IBM said, “If all couples start with the women facing north, after a while, the rotating pairs are oriented in different directions. We can now lock the rotation speed of the dancers to the direction they move. This results in a perfect choreography where all the women in a certain area face the same direction. This control and ability to manipulate and observe the spin is an important step in the development of spin-based transistors that are electrically programmable.”

International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) scientists used ultra short laser pulses to monitor the progress of thousands of electronic spins simultaneously created in a tiny spot. According to them, the spins assembled neatly into a regular stripe-like pattern, after losing orientation in a random rotation. They describe the phenomenon as a persistent spin-helix. Using a scanning microscope technique, the scientist found the spins travel more than 10 micrometers or one-hundredth of a millimeter. According to them, there is a great possibility to use the spin to process logical operations faster in a more energy-efficient manner.

According to International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), transferring the spintronics technology from the laboratory to the market is still a great challenge, since the experiment was done at a very low temperature 40 Kelvin (-233 C, -387 F) where there is minimal electron spin interaction.