PerspectiveApplied Physics

Spin Twists in a Transistor

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Science  20 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6092, pp. 307-308
DOI: 10.1126/science.1225219

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Summary

Transistors are the centerpiece of conventional electronics, with two key features of switching and amplification. However, transistors relying on electron charge are oblivious to another property of electrons: their spin. In a simple picture, these spins are compass needles, aligned by a magnetic field. With different orientations, “up” and “down,” spin lends itself to encoding binary information as ones and zeroes, as explored in the field of spintronics (1, 2). Whereas harnessing spin for robust information storage in computer hard drives and magnetic random access memories has been very successful, delivering a spin transistor has been challenging (1). On page 324 of this issue, Betthausen et al. (3) describe a newly discovered spin-transistor action. Considering that the pioneering work on another spin transistor (4) waited two decades for experimental realization (5), it is a remarkable feat that the work of Betthausen et al. presents the experiment and theory for their spin transistor.