Challenges for semiconductor spintronics

High-volume information-processing and communications devices are at present based on semiconductor devices, whereas information-storage devices rely on multilayers of magnetic metals and insulators. Switching within information-processing devices is performed by the controlled motion of small pools of charge, whereas in the magnetic storage devices information storage and retrieval is performed by reorienting magnetic domains (although charge motion is often used for the fi nal stage of readout). Semiconductor spintronics offers a possible direction towards the development of hybrid devices that could perform all three of these operations, logic, communications and storage, within the same materials technology. By taking advantage of spin coherence it also may sidestep some limitations on information manipulation previously thought to be fundamental. This article focuses on advances towards these goals in the past decade, during which experimental progress has been extraordinary.

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