IBM scientists Matthias Walser (left) and Gian Salis who published the finding detailing mapping electron spins with C. Reichl and W. Wegscheider from ETH Zurich in the 12 August 2012 online edition of Nature Physics. (Photo : IBM Research)
Scientists are scrambling to understand and develop quantum computing. Based off the enigmatic qualities of quantum physics, quantum computing should help us process the vast amounts of data we all now share faster and more efficiently. In a huge step forward, researchers from IBM and ETH Zurich have figured out a way to map the spin of electrons, which can be used instead of electron charges for encoding data.'
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The team mapped synchronized electron spin lifetimes to last just over one nanosecond. That's 30 times longer than previous spin lifetimes and just around the same time as a 1GHz processor takes to cycle, creating hope that data can be extracted from this spins.
Currently, computers store binary data in electron charges. The problem with this method is that technology nowadays has shrunk to the point that its miniature nature makes controlling the flow of electrons difficult. By harnessing the power of electron spins, researchers could open up doors to more powerful and efficient computing.
The process of synchronizing and understanding electron spins was inspired by the waltz.
"If all couples start with the women facing north, after a while the rotating pairs are oriented in different directions. We can now lock the rotation speed of the dancers to the direction they move. This results in a perfect choreography where all the women in a certain area face the same direction. This control and ability to manipulate and observe the spin is an important step in the development of spin-based transistors that are electrically programmable," said Dr. Gian Salis from the Physics of Nanoscale Systems research group at IBM.
Synchronizing the electron spins and using gallium arsenide semiconductor, the scientists were able to map 10 micrometers of spin travels. The hope here is to encode data in the electron spins, now that they can be observed for long enough to extract data from.
There is still a long way to go before the technology is consumer friendly. Quantum computing is generally achieved in lab conditions including low temperatures. The IBM spintronics breakthrough was done at a temperature of negative 387 degrees Fahrenheit.
Read the study abstract online.
Watch a video explaining "spintronics:"