Stanford Collaborate on World-Class Spintronics
JOSE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE) --IBM and Stanford University
are joining forces on the advanced research and creation
of new high-performance, low-power electronics in the
emerging field of nanotechnology called "spintronics."
To formalize the effort, scientists at IBM's Almaden
Research Center and Stanford University today announced
the formation of the IBM-Stanford Spintronic Science
and Applications Center (SpinAps, for short).
"SpinAps researchers will work to create breakthroughs
that could revolutionize the electronics industry, just
as the transistor did 50 years ago," said Dr. Robert
Morris, IBM VP and director of the Almaden Research
Since its inception, the microelectronics industry has
progressed by shrinking circuitry. This approach is
becoming much more difficult, time-consuming and expensive,
and there is now a worldwide search for new ideas that
can deliver improved performance in smaller sizes than
is possible with conventional designs. Spintronics is
an exciting possibility because controlling the spin
-- or magnetic orientation -- of electrons within tiny
structures made of ultra-thin layers can produce such
advantageous properties as low-power switching and nonvolatile
"The SpinAps scientists will dramatically hasten
progress from theoretical concept to experimental verification
and from new-device ideas to product prototypes,"
said Stanford Dean of Engineering Dr. James D. Plummer.
Electron spin is a quantum property that has two possible
states, either "up" or "down." Aligning
spins in a material creates magnetism. Moreover, magnetic
fields affect the passage of "up" and "down"
electrons differently. Understanding and controlling
this property is central to creating a whole new breed
of electronic properties.
In fact, the promise of this technology was demonstrated
earlier by IBM. The first mass-produced spintronic device
has already revolutionized the hard-disk drive industry.
Introduced in 1997, the giant magnetoresistive (GMR)
head, developed at the IBM Almaden lab, is a super-sensitive
magnetic-field sensor that enabled a 40-fold increase
in data density over the past seven years. Another multilayered
spintronic structure is at the heart of the high-speed,
nonvolatile magnetic random access memory (MRAM), currently
being developed by a handful of companies.
SpinAps scientists envision creating new materials and
devices with entirely new capabilities -- such as reconfigurable
logic devices, room-temperature superconductors and
quantum computers -- that would create dramatically
new computational paradigms. Commercial products from
SpinAps research are not expected for at least five
SpinAps will be directed by IBM Fellow Dr. Stuart Parkin
and Stanford professors Dr. James S. Harris (Electrical
Engineering, Applied Physics and Materials Science)
and Dr. Shoucheng Zhang (Physics and Applied Physics).
These individuals bring to the Center very different
but complementary backgrounds, expertise and perspectives.
Parkin is a pioneer in the science and application of
spintronic materials. His discovery of oscillatory interlayer
coupling in magnetic multilayers led to IBM's development
of the GMR head. He also proposed using spintronic magnetic
tunnel junction elements in MRAM. Parkin's group has
unique capabilities for rapidly preparing a wide variety
of magnetic thin-film materials.
Harris is an expert in developing new and artificially
structured materials by molecular beam epitaxy and applying
them in useful electronic devices. His lab has several
machines for making semiconducting materials with exquisite
precision. He will focus on creating ultra-thin multilayered
semiconducting building blocks for new spin-based devices.
Zhang is a theoretician who has made a number of contributions
to understanding superconducting, magnetic and correlated
electron phenomena in solids. For example, while Ohm's
Law describes the inevitable dissipation of power as
charge currents flow, a recent generalized theory by
Zhang and colleagues predicts that generating a spin
current by an electric field can be reversible and non-dissipative.
SpinAps Center researchers will attempt to demonstrate
this exciting possibility.
Research at the SpinAps Center will involve about a
half-dozen Stanford professors, a similar number of
IBM scientists, up to 10 graduate students working at
both IBM Almaden and Stanford, three or more postdoctoral
researchers and two or more visiting faculty. Initial
funding for the Center is from IBM and Stanford. Participating
scientists' research projects are also funded by agencies
such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science
Foundation. The center will begin operation immediately.
SpinAps is the latest example of IBM's long-standing
tradition of partnering with world-class universities
to help shape the future of technology and of learning.
IBM and Stanford are increasing the depth of study and
accelerating the practical applications of academic
research while providing invaluable opportunities and
experiences for university scientists and students.