A research team from Aalto University in Finland has developed a new device capable of reconfigurable spin-wave transport, capable of advancing studies in the field of spintronics as well as the potential for more powerful computer processors, according to a report from Tech News Insight.

Spintronics, a portmanteau of spin electronics, focuses on understanding the intrinsic spin of electrons and the related magnetic moment. These behaviors affect its performance in relation to electronic and solid-state devices.

Traditional electronic devices use electrical charges to function and perform computations, allowing mankind's daily use of technology - from smartphone apps to computers.

However, there is a perceived limit to how fast conventional electronics can process data since moving charge generates heat as a by-product, and the miniaturization of electronics has reached its limits as far as thermodynamics is concerned - but spintronics opens a new realm of possibilities for faster devices.

Spin orientation in the direction of material magnetization
(Photo: MykhailoZ via Wikimedia Commons)

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Carefully Fabricated Nanoresonator

The new spintronics device from Aalto University is a reconfigurable spin-wave transport set up in a hybrid material structure based on Yttrium Iron Garnet (YIG) materials - resulting in a device known as a Fabry-Pérot nanoresonator. This form of the resonator is used mostly in optics studies to created controlled light beams of a specific wavelength.

In the new study, published as "Nanoscale magnonic Fabry-Pérot resonator for low-loss spin-wave manipulation" in the journal Nature Communications, researchers created a spintronics version of the device. This allows them to control and filer waves of spin - each being only a few hundreds of nanometers across.

Researchers fabricated their nanoresonators by stacking nanothin materials with unique magnetic properties on top of each other. This resulted in a device capable of trapping spin waves and filter out those at a different frequency than what is required.

"The concept is new but easy to implement," says Dr. Huajun Qin, first author of the paper from the Department of Applied Physics at Aalto University, in a university news release. He explains that the trick lies in "good quality materials, which we have here at Aalto." Dr. Qin also notes that the accessibility in fabricating these devices equates to more opportunities "for new exciting work."

The Future of Computing and Data Processing

Aside from the thermodynamic limitations hindering faster electronic devices, there are also limitations in wireless data transmission. Particularly, wireless radio signals need to be modulated and converted from higher frequencies down to a range that can be processed by existing electronic circuits. This conversion takes time, in addition to requiring additional energy.

On the other hand, spin-wave chips could operate in the same microwave frequencies used in mobile phones and wireless networks, which opens the possibility of these materials being used in faster and more reliable wireless transmission technologies in the future.

Additionally, spin waves could boost computing technologies beyond conventional technology. Existing computers process data based on Boolean or binary logic, where each unit of data - or bit - has a value of either one or zero.

With spin waves, however, data is carried in the amplitude value of the wave, which makes it more synonymous with analog-style computing - where values are continuously varying within a set range, instead of the discrete values in digital data transmission.


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