The Birth of Topological Spintronics
Professor Dan Ralph, the co-principal-investigator at Cornell University, said "Our team's research has overcome one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling -- the efficiency with which an ordinary charge current can be converted into a spin current." The experiment used thin-film materials that were synthesized in Samarth's molecular-beam-epitaxy facility at Penn State by Graduate Student Joon Sue Lee and Research Associate Anthony Richardella. Graduate Student Alex Mellnik, in Ralph's laboratory at Cornell, fashioned these thin films into devices and carried out the spin-torque measurements. Professor Eun-ah Kim and her group at Cornell developed the theoretical interpretation of the experiments.Earlier this year, Samarth's group also co-authored a manuscript in Nature Communications with Professor Zahid Hasan's group at Princeton University. In that experiment, a systematic series of ultrathin bismuth selenide films synthesized at Penn State were used by Research Associate Madhab Neupane and Graduate Student Su-yang Xu of his lab to demonstrate how the spin orientation of surface electrons in a topological insulator could be manipulated at room temperature using quantum tunneling.
"The rapid progress shown in this field at Penn State and at laboratories around the world indicates that 'topological spintronics' shows great promise of becoming an attractive offshoot of more traditional approaches to spintronics technology," Samarth said.
The collaborative research by Penn State, Cornell, and Princeton is supported by a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Penn State research on topological insulators also is supported by the Office of Naval Research and through C-SPIN, one of six centers of STARnet, a Semiconductor Research Corporation program, sponsored by the Microelectronics Advanced Research Corporation (MARCO) and DARPA. The Cornell team also is supported by the US National Science Foundation's Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program (MRSEC) program through the Cornell Center for Materials Research, by the Army Research Office, and by the Kavli Institute at Cornell.
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