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How the spin of the electron is changing the future of data storage

Data storage technologies and the hardware industry have grown dramatically over the past ten years, allowing us to store several terabytes of data on a small hard disc device. This is all due to the developments in the emerging technology of spintronics. “The spin plays a key role in the future of electronics. I hope in the coming 10 years all the electronic industry will be replaced by the spin of the electron”, says Assistant Professor Kakarla Chandrasekhar of the Department of Physics at National Sun Yat-sen University. Soon, new spintronic materials will dramatically increase data storage capacity.

What allowed such a revolution to happen is the development of the spintronic technology and spintronic materials with specific physical properties that permit the utilization of the spin of the electron. The spins of electrons are used as information carriers, which can be applied to store and read data on devices. “If you pack a lot of dense data in a disc, you have to be capable of reading each data bit; this can be possible by using spintronic technology”, says Assistant Professor Chandrasekhar. A spin-valve read head reads the data stored in a hard disc. Spin-based technology offers more reliable data storage and allows the creation of devices smaller in size and with increased processing speed and functionalities and lowers the consumption of energy. Spintronic materials are constantly improving and new materials with specific properties are sought after for application in future spintronic devices.

Assistant Professor Chandrasekhar, together with Professor Hung-Duen Yang of the Department of Physics is searching for novel multiferroic and skyrmion crystals. Multiferroic materials are the coexistence of more than two ferroic properties and thereby can be cross-coupled and have the potential to control magnetism using electric fields, which makes them applicable for the development of spintronic devices. Skyrmions are nanometer-sized structures existing in special kinds of chiral magnetic systems; they can be driven with small currents without being scattered by impurities or defect sites, which makes them a great candidate for efficient future spin devices. Assistant Professor Chandrasekhar handles the project design and material characterization at the Low Temperature Physics Laboratory led by Professor Hung-Duen Yang and utilizes the excellent resources of the Center of Crystal Research led by Distinguished Professor Mitch Ming-Chi Chou in the Department of Materials and Optoelectronic Science, NSYSU, to grow multiferroic and skyrmion crystals ranging from a few micrometers to a few millimeters in size. He then examines their physical and magnetic properties by using spectroscopic, diffraction, and magnetic techniques. If the right properties are obtained and if the materials can operate at room temperature, such crystals will be possibly applied in new spintronic devices for data storage and microelectronic industry.

Electrons have three basic properties: spin, mass, and charge. Spintronics is a new field, which, besides the charge of the electron, utilizes the intrinsic spin of electrons and the produced magnetic field. Until recently, most data storage and processing devices were making use of only the charge property of an electron. However, if you replace the electron's charge with spin, you can achieve miniaturization and efficiency with lower power consumption.

“Research is a never-ending process”, says Assistant Professor Kakarla Devi Chandrasekhar of the Department of Physics at National Sun Yat-sen University. He has been focusing on fundamental research of materials for future devices. During his doctoral studies at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, he gained an insight into magnetism and its application in devices and started to research multiferroic materials.

Low Temperature Physics Laboratory is led by Professor Hung-Duen Yang of the Department of Physics, NSYSU. The main focus of the Laboratory is the characterization of novel superconducting, magnetic materials, and nano-materials. The Center of Crystal Research at NSYSU led by Distinguished Professor Mitch Ming-Chi Chou is the key laboratory of the Taiwan Consortium of Emergent Crystalline Materials program, with the goal to develop novel crystalline materials and growth technologies, as well as educate talents with core knowledge and skills in the fields of crystal growth science and technology.
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