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New Discovery Could Pave the Way For Spin-Based Computing

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Magnetic states at oxide interfaces controlled by electricity.

Magnetic states at oxide interfaces controlled by electricity. Top image show magnetic state with -3 volts applied, and bottom image shows nonmagnetic state with 0 volts applied.

Credit: University of Pittsburgh News

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered a way to fuse electricity and magnetism in a single material, a breakthrough they say could lead to new ultrahigh density storage and computing architectures.

The discovery is a form of magnetism that can be stabilized with electric fields rather than magnetic fields. The researchers created a material that has a thick layer of strontium titanate and a thin layer of lanthanum aluminate, and found the interface between the materials can exhibit magnetic behavior that is stable at room temperature. The magnetic properties are detected using "magnetic force microscopy," an imaging technique that scans a tiny magnet over the material to gauge the relative attraction or repulsion from the magnetic layer.

"Magnetic materials tend to respond to magnetic fields and are not so sensitive to electrical influences," notes Pittsburgh professor Jeremy Levy.

"What we have discovered is that a new family of oxide-based materials can completely change its behavior based on electrical input." Spintronics pioneer Stuart Wolf, head of the University of Virginia's nanoSTAR Institute, says, "This work is indeed very promising and may lead to a new type of magnetic storage."

From University of Pittsburgh News
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