Charge carriers (such as electrons) have a property known as spin which is a small quantity of angular momentum intrinsic to the carrier. An electric current is generally unpolarized (consisting of 50% spin-up and 50% spin-down electrons); a spin polarized current is one with more electrons of either spin. By passing a current through a thick magnetic layer (usually called the “fixed layer”), one can produce a spin-polarized current. If this spin-polarized current is directed into a second, thinner magnetic layer (the “free layer”), the angular momentum can be transferred to this layer, changing its orientation. This can be used to excite oscillations or even flip the orientation of the magnet. The effects are usually seen only in nanometer scale devices.
Spin-transfer torque memory
Spin-transfer torque can be used to flip the active elements in magnetic random-access memory. Spin-transfer torque magnetic random-access memory (STT-RAM or STT-MRAM) is a non-volatile memory with near-zero leakage power consumption which is a major advantage over charge-based memories such as SRAM and DRAM. STT-RAM also has the advantages of lower power consumption and better scalability than conventional magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) which uses magnetic fields to flip the active elements . Spin-transfer torque technology has the potential to make possible MRAM devices combining low current requirements and reduced cost; however, the amount of current needed to reorient the magnetization is presently too high for most commercial applications, and the reduction of this current density alone is the basis for present academic research in spin electronics.
Hitachi and Tohoku University demonstrated a 32-Mbit STT-RAM in June 2009.
On August 1, 2011, Grandis announced that it had been purchased by Samsung Electronics for an undisclosed sum.
In May 2011, Russian Nanotechnology Corp. announced an investment of $300 million in Crocus Nano Electronics (a joint venture with Crocus Technology) which will build an MRAM factory in Moscow, Russia.
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