Ongoing research into spintronics—a method aimed at enabling spin-polarized current flow through semiconductors—is likely to result in a new class of multifunctional electronics.
Practical spintronics incorporate existing microelectronic manufacturing techniques. It involves the development of many electronic devices that include ferromagnetic materials. Moreover, it‘s enabling the development of ultrafast switches and fully programmable all-spintronics microprocessors that can combine logic, storage, and communications on a single chip.
"Superior optical properties of semiconductors and their ability to amplify both optical and electrical signals will form the basis for these developments, which will eventually contribute to the emergence of semiconductor spintronics," said Technical Insights Analyst Charles Joslin.
However, the viability of this technology is greatly dependant on devising economic ways to combine ferromagnetic metals and semiconductors in integrated circuits—a demanding task, given the differences in crystal structure and chemical bonding.
In addition, these ferromagnetic semiconductors should have Curie temperatures above the room temperature and have the ability to incorporate both p-type and n-type dopants.
Challenges also exist in determining efficient ways to inject spin-polarized currents into a semiconductor; in recognizing the properties at boundaries between different types of semiconductors; and in developing the ability to retain polarization. Moreover, for greater spin polarization, concentrated materials that are capable of allowing Zeeman splitting of the conduction band are required.
“The scope of semiconductor spintronics hinges on the development of techniques for injection, transportation, and detection of spin-polarized currents without using strong magnetic fields, which will also be effective at or above room temperature,” said Joslin.