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Computer data stored with 'spintronics'

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Columbus, Ohio (UPI) Aug 9, 2010
U.S. researchers have demonstrated a form of plastic computer memory that uses the spin of electrons to read and write data, computer experts say.

Scientists at Ohio State University see "spintronics" as an alternative to traditional microelectronics that could store more data in less space, process data faster and consume less power, a university release said.

Normal electronics encode computer data in a binary code of ones and zeros, depending on whether an electron is present or not in a void within the memory material.

But researchers have long known that electrons can be polarized to orient in particular directions, like the poles of a bar magnet. They refer to this orientation as either "spin up" or "spin down" and have been working on a way to store data using that spin. The resulting "spintronics" would store and transfer twice as much data per electron.

But that's only part of the story, OSU researchers say.

"Spintronics is often just seen as a way to get more information out of an electron, but really it's about moving to the next generation of electronics," Arthur J. Epstein said. "We could solve many of the problems facing computers today by using spintronics."

Typical circuit boards use a lot of energy and generate a lot of heat, limiting chip makers in how closely they can pack circuits together to avoid overheating.

Flipping the spin of an electron requires less energy, and produces hardly any heat at all, Epstein said.

Spintronic devices could run on smaller batteries, he said, and if made out of plastic are also light and flexible.

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