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Putting a new spin on silicon

At the heart of data-reading heads in new computer hard drives are devices whose exquisite sensitivity derives from manipulations of a magnetic property of electrons called spin.

Such devices, part of an ascendant technology known as spintronics (SN: 7/5/03, p.14: Available to subscribers at Magnetic current flows solo), might capture more turf from conventional electronics if spintronics developers could somehow render silicon magnetic, says Vincent P. LaBella of the State University of New York in Albany. Now, he and his colleagues may have done just that.

In the Jan. 15 Physical Review B, LaBella's team reports shooting ions of manganese, a magnetic metal, into silicon. As a result, the semiconductor attained a magnetic field about a millionth as strong as the one iron has, LaBella estimates.

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