Cellphones, computers and other electronics are currently based on silicon transistors, which are starting to hit a wall in terms of achieving smaller and smaller sizes. Spintronics is a promising alternative that carries information based on the spin of an electron rather than based on electron charge as is the case with transistors. Spintronics would result in much smaller mobile electronics.
Spintronics uses the direction of the electron spin – either up or down – to carry information in ones and zeros. A spintronic device can process exponentially more data than traditional electronics that use the ebb and flow of electrical current to generate digital instructions. But physicists have struggled to make spintronic devices a reality.
The study, published in Nature Physics, is the first to show that organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites are a promising material class for spintronics. The researchers discovered that the perovskites possess two contradictory properties necessary to make spintronic devices work – the electrons' spin can be easily controlled, and can also maintain the spin direction long enough to transport information, a property known as spin lifetime.
"It's a device that people always wanted to make, but there are big challenges in finding a material that can be manipulated and, at the same time, have a long spin lifetime," says Sarah Li, assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah and lead author of the study. "But for this material, it's the property of the material itself that satisfies both."