Information Technology

Diamond Wire Transmits Data Via Spin Electronics

24 March 2014

Researchers at Ohio State University used spin electronics to transmit signals down a diamond wire.

Diamond has a lot going for it when it comes to spin electronics, or spintronics, according to lead investigator Chris Hammel, Ohio Eminent Scholar in Experimental Physics at Ohio State. It's hard, transparent, electrically insulating, impervious to environmental contamination, resistant to acids, and doesn't hold heat as semiconductors do.

According to Hammel, the discovery could change the way researchers study spin. The synthetic diamond wire used in the experiment cost a mere $100 and is a first mini-step that could one day lead to diamond transistors.

The concept of spintronics, refers to the theory that the spin of an electron can be used to carry information. It has long been thought that this property could be exploited for quantum computing.

Electrons attain different spin states according to the direction in which they're spinning—up or down. Hammel's team placed a tiny diamond wire in a magnetic resonance force microscope and detected that the spin states inside the wire varied according to a pattern.

"If this wire were part of a computer, it would transfer information. There's no question that you'd be able to tell at the far end of the wire what the spin state of the original particle was at the beginning," he said.

The researchers had to seed one nitrogen atom for every three million diamond atoms to un-pair electrons so that could spin.

The wire, measuring four micrometers long and 200 nanometers wide, was observed as the magnetic coil in the microscope was switched on and off at 15-nanometer (about 50-atoms) wide snapshots of electron behavior. The spin was flowing through the diamond when a magnet on a delicate cantilever moved minute amounts as it was alternatively attracted or repelled by the atoms in the wire, depending on their spin states.

Spin states inside the wire lasted for about 15 milliseconds, and near the end they lasted for 30 milliseconds.

"The fact that spins can move like this means that the conventional way that the world measures spin dynamics on the macroscopic level has to be reconsidered—it's actually not valid," said Hammil.

The experiment proved that diamond can transport spin in an organized way, preserving spin state—and, thus, preserving information. The diamond wire was observed at 4.2 Kelvin to slow down the spins and to quiet their sensitive detector enough to make these few spins detectable. Many advances would have to be made before the effect could be exploited at room temperature, according to Hammel.

The research, funded by several government agencies, was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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