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Electron spins pass imposing frontier

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4:40pm, September 9, 2002

From Washington, D.C., at the 166th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Typical microchips have more layers than a club sandwich. Circuit fabricators stack up thin films of semiconductors and other materials to create devices such as transistors and the connections between them.

Those stacks make the pioneers of a new branch of circuit technology nervous. Spin electronics, or spintronics, relies not on electric charge but on another property called spin. It's roughly analogous to electron rotation. Developers have worried that electrons' movement between layers might change the direction of spins—the data in spintronic devices.

New experiments indicate, however, that electron spins can breeze between different semiconductors with little or no mussing of their direction. "If you're going to build anything useful, you're going to have a series of interfaces. So, this is a very crucial piece of information," says D

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