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"Spin Ductors" -- The Discovery Files

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Researchers at Ohio State University have demonstrated the first plastic computer memory device that utilizes the spin of electrons to read and write data.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

A New Spin on Computers.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Those magical semiconductor memory devices inside every computer are being re-invented by a team led by Ohio State University. Not a new twist -- it's more like a new spin: plastic microelectronics that use the spin of electrons to read and write data.

The researchers' prototype is little more than a simple organic-based magnet layered with a ferromagnet, and connected to two leads. Almost sounds like you could build one from a refrigerator magnet but theirs is made from vanadium tetracyanoethanide -- a polymer they developed that is the first organic-based magnet to operate above room temperature.

The team used their magnet semiconductor to save data by polarizing electrons -- making them "spin up" or "spin down." They then read the data back using a spin detector. The results were perfect -- the data was retrieved in its entirety, exactly as the team had stored it.

The process of "spintronics," as it's called, would let future computers store and transfer twice as much data per electron, use less energy, and produce far less heat. The researchers' plastic memory device could even help lead to flexible computers that you could roll up and carry away.

Whoa -- all this spinning is making me dizzy.

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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