Editor's Choice


Paving the way for way for ultra-fast sustainable computers

May 2023 Editor's Choice Sensors & Transducers

The discovery of new quantum materials with magnetic properties are believed to pave the way for ultra-fast and considerably more energy efficient computers and mobile devices. So far, these types of materials have been shown to work only in extremely cold temperatures. Now, a research team at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden is the first to make a device made of a two-dimensional magnetic quantum material work at room temperature.

Today’s rapid IT expansion generates enormous amounts of digital data that needs to be stored, processed and communicated. This comes with an ever-increasing need for energy − projected to consume over 30% of the world’s total energy consumption by 2050. To combat the problem, the research community has entered a new paradigm in materials science. The research and development of two-dimensional quantum materials, that form in sheets and are only a few atoms thick, have opened new doors for sustainable, faster and more energy-efficient data storage and processing in computers and mobiles.

The first atomically thin material to be isolated in a laboratory was graphene, a single atom-thick plane of graphite, that resulted in the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics; and in 2017, two-dimensional materials with magnetic properties were discovered for the first time. Magnets play a fundamental role in our everyday lives, from sensors in our cars and home appliances to computer data storage and memory technologies, and the discovery opened the way for new and more sustainable solutions for a wide range of technology devices.

“Two-dimensional magnetic materials are more sustainable because they are atomically thin and offer unique magnetic properties that make them attractive for developing new energy-efficient and ultra-fast applications for sensors, and advanced magnetic memory and computing concepts. This makes them promising candidates for a range of different technologies”, says Saroj Dash, professor in Quantum Device Physics at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

So far, researchers have only been able to demonstrate two-dimensional magnets in extremely low temperatures in laboratory environments, so-called cryogenic temperatures, inhibiting their broader use in society. The researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have been able to demonstrate, for the very first time, a new two-dimensional magnetic material-based device at room temperature. They used an iron-based alloy (Fe5GeTe2) with graphene, which can be used as a source and detector for spin polarised electrons.

Conventional electronic logic devices are based on nonmagnetic semiconductors and use the flow of electric charges to achieve information processing and communication. Spintronic devices, on the other hand, exploit the spin of electrons to generate and control charge currents, and to interconvert electrical and magnetic signals. By combining processing, storage, sensing, and logic within a single integrated platform, spintronics could complement and, in some cases, outperform semiconductor-based electronics, offering advantages in terms of scaling, power consumption, and data processing speed.

The breakthrough is believed to enable a range of technical applications in several industries as well as in our everyday lives. “These 2D magnets can be used to develop ultra-compact, faster, and more energy-efficient memory devices in computers. They may also be used to develop highly sensitive magnetic sensors for a wide range of applications, including biomedical and environmental monitoring, navigation, and communication,” concludes Bing Zhao, post-doctorate researcher in Quantum Device Physics and first author of the study.




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