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Spintronics (a portmanteau meaning "spin transport electronics"[1][2][3]), also known as spinelectronics or fluxtronics, is the study of the intrinsic spin of the electron and its associated magnetic moment, in addition to its fundamental electronic charge, in solid-state devices.

Spintronics differs from the older magnetoelectronics, in that spins are manipulated by both magnetic and electrical fields.


Spintronics emerged from discoveries in the 1980s concerning spin-dependent electron transport phenomena in solid-state devices. This includes the observation of spin-polarized electron injection from a ferromagnetic metal to a normal metal by Johnson and Silsbee (1985)[4] and the discovery of giant magnetoresistance independently by Albert Fert et al.[5] and Peter Grünberg et al. (1988).[6] The origins of spintronics can be traced to the ferromagnet/superconductor tunneling experiments pioneered by Meservey and Tedrow and initial experiments on magnetic tunnel junctions by Julliere in the 1970s.[7] The use of semiconductors for spintronics began with the theoretical proposal of a spin field-effect-transistor by Datta and Das in 1990.[8]


Main article: Spin (physics)

The spin of the electron is an intrinsic angular momentum that is separate from the angular momentum due to its orbital motion. The magnitude of the projection of the electron's spin along an arbitrary axis is \frac{1}{2}\hbar, implying that the electron acts as a Fermion by the spin-statistics theorem. Like orbital angular momentum, the spin has an associated magnetic moment, the magnitude of which is expressed as


In a solid the spins of many electrons can act together to affect the magnetic and electronic properties of a material, for example endowing it with a permanent magnetic moment as in a ferromagnet.

In many materials, electron spins are equally present in both the up and the down state, and no transport properties are dependent on spin. A spintronic device requires generation or manipulation of a spin-polarized population of electrons, resulting in an excess of spin up or spin down electrons. The polarization of any spin dependent property X can be written as


A net spin polarization can be achieved either through creating an equilibrium energy split between spin up and spin down. Methods include putting a material in a large magnetic field (Zeeman effect), the exchange energy present in a ferromagnet or forcing the system out of equilibrium. The period of time that such a non-equilibrium population can be maintained is known as the spin lifetime, \tau.

In a diffusive conductor, a spin diffusion length \lambda can be defined as the distance over which a non-equilibrium spin population can propagate. Spin lifetimes of conduction electrons in metals are relatively short (typically less than 1 nanosecond). An important research area is devoted to extending this lifetime to technologically relevant timescales.

A plot showing a spin up, spin down, and the resulting spin polarized population of electrons. Inside a spin injector, the polarization is constant, while outside the injector, the polarization decays exponentially to zero as the spin up and down populations go to equilibrium.

The mechanisms of decay for a spin polarized population can be broadly classified as spin-flip scattering and spin dephasing. Spin-flip scattering is a process inside a solid that does not conserve spin, and can therefore switch an incoming spin up state into an outgoing spin down state. Spin dephasing is the process wherein a population of electrons with a common spin state becomes less polarized over time due to different rates of electron spin precession. In confined structures, spin dephasing can be suppressed, leading to spin lifetimes of milliseconds in semiconductor quantum dots at low temperatures.

Superconductors can enhance central effects in spintronics such as magnetoresistance effects, spin lifetimes and dissipationless spin-currents.[9][10]

Metal-based devices[edit]

The simplest method of generating a spin-polarised current in a metal is to pass the current through a ferromagnetic material. The most common applications of this effect involve giant magnetoresistance (GMR) devices. A typical GMR device consists of at least two layers of ferromagnetic materials separated by a spacer layer. When the two magnetization vectors of the ferromagnetic layers are aligned, the electrical resistance will be lower (so a higher current flows at constant voltage) than if the ferromagnetic layers are anti-aligned. This constitutes a magnetic field sensor.

Two variants of GMR have been applied in devices: (1) current-in-plane (CIP), where the electric current flows parallel to the layers and (2) current-perpendicular-to-plane (CPP), where the electric current flows in a direction perpendicular to the layers.

Other metal-based spintronics devices:

  • Tunnel magnetoresistance (TMR), where CPP transport is achieved by using quantum-mechanical tunneling of electrons through a thin insulator separating ferromagnetic layers.
  • Spin-transfer torque, where a current of spin-polarized electrons is used to control the magnetization direction of ferromagnetic electrodes in the device.
  • Spin-wave logic devices carry information in the phase. Interference and spin-wave scattering can perform logic operations.

Spintronic-logic devices[edit]

Non-volatile spin-logic devices to enable scaling are being extensively studied.[11] Spin-transfer, torque-based logic devices that use spins and magnets for information processing have been proposed[12][13] These devices are part of the ITRS exploratory road map. Logic-in memory applications are already in the development stage.[14][15]


Read heads of hard drives are based on the GMR or TMR effect.

Motorola developed a first-generation 256 kb magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) based on a single magnetic tunnel junction and a single transistor that has a read/write cycle of under 50 nanoseconds.[16] Everspin has since developed a 4 Mb version.[17] Two second-generation MRAM techniques are in development: thermal-assisted switching (TAS)[18] and spin-transfer torque (STT).[19]

Another design, racetrack memory, encodes information in the direction of magnetization between domain walls of a ferromagnetic wire.

Magnetic sensors can use the GMR effect.[citation needed]

In 2012 persistent spin helices of synchronized electrons were made to persist for more than a nanosecond, a 30-fold increase, longer than the duration of a modern processor clock cycle.[20]

Semiconductor-based spintronic devices[edit]

Doped semiconductor materials display dilute ferromagnetism. In recent years, dilute magnetic oxides (DMOs) including ZnO based DMOs and TiO2-based DMOs have been the subject of numerous experimental and computational investigations.[21][22] Non-oxide ferromagnetic semiconductor sources (like manganese-doped gallium arsenide GaMnAs),[23] increase the interface resistance with a tunnel barrier,[24] or using hot-electron injection.[25]

Spin detection in semiconductors has been addressed with multiple techniques:

  • Faraday/Kerr rotation of transmitted/reflected photons[26]
  • Circular polarization analysis of electroluminescence[27]
  • Nonlocal spin valve (adapted from Johnson and Silsbee's work with metals)[28]
  • Ballistic spin filtering[29]

The latter technique was used to overcome the lack of spin-orbit interaction and materials issues to achieve spin transport in silicon.[30]

Because external magnetic fields (and stray fields from magnetic contacts) can cause large Hall effects and magnetoresistance in semiconductors (which mimic spin-valve effects), the only conclusive evidence of spin transport in semiconductors is demonstration of spin precession and dephasing in a magnetic field non-collinear to the injected spin orientation, called the Hanle effect.


Applications using spin-polarized electrical injection have shown threshold current reduction and controllable circularly polarized coherent light output.[31] Examples include semiconductor lasers. Future applications may include a spin-based transistor having advantages over MOSFET devices such as steeper sub-threshold slope.

Magnetic-tunnel transistor: The magnetic-tunnel transistor with a single base layer[32] has the following terminals:

  • Emitter (FM1): Injects spin-polarized hot electrons into the base.
  • Base (FM2): Spin-dependent scattering takes place in the base. It also serves as a spin filter.
  • Collector (GaAs): A Schottky barrier is formed at the interface. It only collects electrons that have enough energy to overcome the Schottky barrier, and when states are available in the semiconductor.

The magnetocurrent (MC) is given as:

MC = \frac{I_{c,p}-I_{c,ap}}{I_{c,ap}}

And the transfer ratio (TR) is

TR = \frac{I_C}{I_E}

MTT promises a highly spin-polarized electron source at room temperature.

Storage media[edit]

Antiferromagnetic storage media have been studied as an alternative to ferromagnetism,[33] especially since with antiferromagnetic material the bits can as well be stored as with ferromagnetic material. Instead of the usual definition 0 -> 'magnetisation upwards', 1 -> 'magnetisation downwards', the states can be, e.g., 0 -> 'vertically-alternating spin configuration' and 1 -> 'horizontally-alternating spin configuration'.[34]).

The main advantages of antiferromagnetic material are:

  • non-sensitivity against perturbations by stray fields;
  • far shorter switching times;
  • no effect on near particles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wolf, S. A.; Chtchelkanova, A. Y.; Treger, D. M. (2006). "Spintronics—A retrospective and perspective". IBM Journal of Research and Development 50: 101. doi:10.1147/rd.501.0101.  edit
  2. ^ Physics Profile: "Stu Wolf: True D! Hollywood Story"[dead link]
  3. ^ Spintronics: A Spin-Based Electronics Vision for the Future. Sciencemag.org (16 November 2001). Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  4. ^ Johnson, M.; Silsbee, R. H. (1985). "Interfacial charge-spin coupling: Injection and detection of spin magnetization in metals". Physical Review Letters 55 (17): 1790–1793. Bibcode:1985PhRvL..55.1790J. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.55.1790. PMID 10031924.  edit
  5. ^ Baibich, M. N.; Broto, J. M.; Fert, A.; Nguyen Van Dau, F. N.; Petroff, F.; Etienne, P.; Creuzet, G.; Friederich, A.; Chazelas, J. (1988). "Giant Magnetoresistance of (001)Fe/(001)Cr Magnetic Superlattices". Physical Review Letters 61 (21): 2472–2475. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.61.2472. PMID 10039127.  edit
  6. ^ Binasch, G.; Grünberg, P.; Saurenbach, F.; Zinn, W. (1989). "Enhanced magnetoresistance in layered magnetic structures with antiferromagnetic interlayer exchange". Physical Review B 39 (7): 4828. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.39.4828.  edit
  7. ^ Julliere, M. (1975). "Tunneling between ferromagnetic films". Physics Letters A 54 (3): 225–201. Bibcode:1975PhLA...54..225J. doi:10.1016/0375-9601(75)90174-7.  edit
  8. ^ Datta, S. & Das, B. (1990). "Electronic analog of the electrooptic modulator". Applied Physics Letters 56 (7): 665–667. Bibcode:1990ApPhL..56..665D. doi:10.1063/1.102730. 
  9. ^ J. Linder and J. W. A. Robinson, "Superconducting Spintronics", Nature Physics 11, 307–315 (2015) doi:10.1038/nphys3242
  10. ^ M. Eschrig, "Spin-polarized supercurrents for spintronics" Physics Today 64(1), 43 (2011)
  11. ^ International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors
  12. ^ Behin-Aein, B.; Datta, D.; Salahuddin, S.; Datta, S. (2010). "Proposal for an all-spin logic device with built-in memory". Nature Nanotechnology 5 (4): 266–270. doi:10.1038/nnano.2010.31. PMID 20190748.  edit
  13. ^ Manipatruni, Sasikanth; Nikonov, Dmitri E. and Young, Ian A. (2011) [1112.2746] Circuit Theory for SPICE of Spintronic Integrated Circuits. Arxiv.org. Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  14. ^ Crocus Partners With Starchip To Develop System-On-Chip Solutions Based on Magnetic-Logic-Unit™ (MLU) Technology. crocus-technology.com. 8 December 2011
  15. ^ Groundbreaking New Technology for Improving the Reliability of Spintronics Logic Integrated Circuits. Nec.com. 11 June 2012.
  16. ^ Spintronics. Sigma-Aldrich. Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  17. ^ Everspin. Everspin. Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  18. ^ Hoberman, Barry. The Emergence of Practical MRAM. crocustechnology.com
  19. ^ LaPedus, Mark (18 June 2009) Tower invests in Crocus, tips MRAM foundry deal. eetimes.com
  20. ^ Walser, M.; Reichl, C.; Wegscheider, W. & Salis, G. (2012). "Direct mapping of the formation of a persistent spin helix". Nature Physics 8 (10): 757. Bibcode:2012NatPh...8..757W. doi:10.1038/nphys2383. 
  21. ^ Assadi, M.H.N; Hanaor, D.A.H (2013). "Theoretical study on copper's energetics and magnetism in TiO2 polymorphs" (PDF). Journal of Applied Physics 113 (23): 233913. arXiv:1304.1854. Bibcode:2013JAP...113w3913A. doi:10.1063/1.4811539. 
  22. ^ Ogale, S.B (2010). "Dilute doping, defects, and ferromagnetism in metal oxide systems". Advanced Materials 22 (29): 3125–3155. doi:10.1002/adma.200903891. PMID 20535732. 
  23. ^ Jonker, B.; Park, Y.; Bennett, B.; Cheong, H.; Kioseoglou, G.; Petrou, A. (2000). "Robust electrical spin injection into a semiconductor heterostructure". Physical Review B 62 (12): 8180. Bibcode:2000PhRvB..62.8180J. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.62.8180.  edit
  24. ^ Hanbicki, A. T.; Jonker, B. T.; Itskos, G.; Kioseoglou, G.; Petrou, A. (2002). "Efficient electrical spin injection from a magnetic metal/tunnel barrier contact into a semiconductor". Applied Physics Letters 80 (7): 1240. arXiv:cond-mat/0110059. Bibcode:2002ApPhL..80.1240H. doi:10.1063/1.1449530.  edit
  25. ^ Jiang, X.; Wang, R.; Van Dijken, S.; Shelby, R.; MacFarlane, R.; Solomon, G.; Harris, J.; Parkin, S. (2003). "Optical Detection of Hot-Electron Spin Injection into GaAs from a Magnetic Tunnel Transistor Source". Physical Review Letters 90 (25). Bibcode:2003PhRvL..90y6603J. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.90.256603.  edit
  26. ^ Kikkawa, J.; Awschalom, D. (1998). "Resonant Spin Amplification in n-Type GaAs". Physical Review Letters 80 (19): 4313. Bibcode:1998PhRvL..80.4313K. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.80.4313.  edit
  27. ^ Jonker, Berend T. Polarized optical emission due to decay or recombination of spin-polarized injected carriers – US Patent 5874749. Issued on 23 February 1999.
  28. ^ Lou, X.; Adelmann, C.; Crooker, S. A.; Garlid, E. S.; Zhang, J.; Reddy, K. S. M.; Flexner, S. D.; Palmstrøm, C. J.; Crowell, P. A. (2007). "Electrical detection of spin transport in lateral ferromagnet–semiconductor devices". Nature Physics 3 (3): 197. Bibcode:2007NatPh...3..197L. doi:10.1038/nphys543.  edit
  29. ^ Appelbaum, I.; Huang, B.; Monsma, D. J. (2007). "Electronic measurement and control of spin transport in silicon". Nature 447 (7142): 295–298. doi:10.1038/nature05803. PMID 17507978.  edit
  30. ^ Žutić, I.; Fabian, J. (2007). "Spintronics: Silicon twists". Nature 447 (7142): 268–269. doi:10.1038/447269a. PMID 17507969.  edit
  31. ^ Holub, M.; Shin, J.; Saha, D.; Bhattacharya, P. (2007). "Electrical Spin Injection and Threshold Reduction in a Semiconductor Laser". Physical Review Letters 98 (14). Bibcode:2007PhRvL..98n6603H. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.98.146603.  edit
  32. ^ Van Dijken, S.; Jiang, X.; Parkin, S. S. P. (2002). "Room temperature operation of a high output current magnetic tunnel transistor". Applied Physics Letters 80 (18): 3364. doi:10.1063/1.1474610.  edit
  33. ^ See, e.g.: Jungwirth, T., announcement of a colloqium talk at the physics faculty of a bavarian university, 28 April 2014: Relativistic Approaches to Spintronics with Antiferromagnets. [1]
  34. ^ This corresponds mathematically to the transition from the rotation group SO(3) to its relativistic covering, the "double group" SU(2)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]