Silicon-based electronics have been serving us well for decades now, but we are quickly approaching their limit. For that reason, researchers are investigating new technologies and materials to replace the semiconductor, such as topological insulators. Researchers at North Carolina States University recently created a new compound, while searching for a topological insulator that can act as a magnetic semiconductor, for use in spintronics.
Spintronics, like electronics, uses electrons for carrying signals, but instead of carrying the signals as changes in voltage, spintronics utilize the spin state of electrons. Spin is a fundamental characteristic of many particles, and by using it, devices could be made to operate at very low power. The material the researchers found is strontium tin oxide (Sr3SnO) and they discovered its magnetic semiconducting nature after growing a single crystal, thin film of it on top of a silicon chip. This is very important as researchers have not been able to integrate other magnetic semiconductors onto a silicon substrate before. With such integration, it may be easier to produce actual spintronic components.
While this is definitely a discovery with great potential, there is still some work to do. After all, the researchers made the Sr3SnO thin film to test if it, with a silicon substrate, could work as a topological insulator, and more testing is required to confirm that.
Source: North Carolina State University