Researchers at Ohio State University have demonstrated the first device that utilizes the spin of electrons to read and write data.
An alternative to traditional microelectronics, so-called "spintronics" could store more data in less space, process data faster, and consume less power.
Arthur J. Epstein and colleagues described the material as a hybrid of a semiconductor that is made from organic materials and a special magnetic polymer semiconductor.
Researchers have long known that electrons can be polarized to orient in particular directions, like a bar magnet.
They refer to this orientation as spin-either "spin up" or "spin down"-and have been working on a way to store data using spin.
The resulting electronics, dubbed spintronics, would effectively let computers store and transfer twice as much data per electron.
Flipping the spin of an electron requires less energy and produces minimal heat - so they can run on smaller batteries - which means lesser power consumption.
"We would love to take portable electronics to a spin platform," said Epstein.
"Any place that makes computer chips could do this. Plus, in this case, we made the device at room temperature, and the process is very eco-friendly," said researcher Jung-Woo Yoo.
The study is published in the August 2010 issue of the journal Nature Materials.