In a study released in the journal Nature Nanotechnology in April, the chemists detail how they discovered that light can induce magnetization in certain semiconductors — the standard class of materials at the heart of all computing devices today.
“These results could allow for a fundamentally new way to process, transfer, and store information by electronic devices, that is much faster and more efficient than conventional electronics,” according to the study.
Moore’s Law is extended using light
Moore’s Law is an observation Made by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, in a paper he authored in 1965 predicting the number of transistors in a densely integrated circuit doubles about every year. The prediction was revised in 1975 to “doubling every two years.”
Moore’s Law, while not a law, has been widely accepted as a goal for the industry, and as such, has set the pace for the modern digital revolution. And thanks to increasing innovation and technological improvements in processing density, computer chips have become smaller and denser. However, experts, citing Moore’s Law have now been warning that we’ll soon reach the end of the trend.
“Simply put, there’s a physical limit to the performance of conventional semiconductors as well as how dense you can build a chip,” said Pavle Radovanovic, a professor of chemistry and a member of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.
“In order to continue improving chip performance, you would either need to change the material transistors are made of – from silicon, say to carbon nanotubes or graphene – or change how our current materials store and process information.”
Radovanovic worked with magnetism and a field called spintronics, which proposes to store binary information within an electron’s spin direction, in addition to its charge and plasmonics, which studies collective oscillations of elements in a material. Spintronic systems are of particular interest in the field of quantum computing.
“We’ve basically magnetized individual semiconducting nanocrystals (tiny particles nearly 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair) with light at room temperature,” said Radovanovic.
“It’s the first time someone’s been able to use the collective motion of electrons, known as plasmon, to induce a stable magnetization within such a non-magnetic semiconductor material.”
In his manipulation of the plasmon in the doped indium oxide nanocrystals, Radovanovic’s findings prove that the magnetic and semiconducting properties can indeed be coupled, all without needing ultra-low temperatures (cryogens) to operate a device.
Radovanovic sees a future for this discovery for highly sensitive magneto-optical sensors for thermal imaging and chemical sensing. As for the future, he wants to explore using this approach in quantum sensing, data storage, and quantum information processing, reports Nanowerk.