12 July 2024
Atomically layered magnets: Green computing's future

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Understanding Atomically Layered Magnets for Energy-Efficient Computing

In today’s digital age, the rapid growth of computing technology, driven by artificial intelligence, has led to a significant increase in the energy consumption of our computing infrastructure. As a result, the scientific community is actively seeking ways to develop more energy-efficient computing devices to address this pressing concern. One promising avenue in this quest is the use of magnetic materials to create computing devices such as memories and processors, which could pave the way for “beyond-CMOS” computers that consume far less energy than traditional systems.

Challenges and Solutions in Implementing 2D Magnetic Materials

While traditional research has predominantly focused on bulk magnetic materials for computing applications, a new class of magnetic materials known as two-dimensional van der Waals magnets has emerged as a game-changer in terms of scalability and energy efficiency. However, the practical integration of these atomically layered magnets into computing devices has been hindered by certain fundamental challenges. One major obstacle has been the requirement for these materials to operate at very low temperatures, similar to superconductors.

A breakthrough in bringing 2D magnetic materials to room temperature operation without the need for external magnetic fields has recently been achieved by a team of researchers at MIT. By creating a van der Waals atomically layered heterostructure that interfaces a 2D van der Waals magnet (iron gallium telluride) with another 2D material (tungsten ditelluride), the researchers demonstrated the ability to electrically switch the magnet between states of 0 and 1. This achievement opens up exciting possibilities for ultra-low power and environmentally sustainable computing technologies that can revolutionize big data and AI applications.

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Electrical switching of atomically layered magnets at room temperature

The Role of Symmetries in Field-Free Magnetization Switching

When it comes to controlling magnets electrically, the concept of breaking mirror symmetries plays a crucial role. In the case of heavy metals like platinum or tantalum, the spin Hall effect causes electrons to segregate based on their spin component when an electric current flows through them. By breaking two mirror symmetries, it becomes possible to induce field-free switching in a magnetic layer, enabling efficient control of magnets using electrical currents.

In previous experiments, researchers utilized a small magnetic field to break the second mirror plane, but the MIT team sought to eliminate this external requirement. By utilizing tungsten ditelluride, a 2D material with an orthorhombic crystal structure that naturally breaks one mirror plane, they were able to achieve out-of-plane spin components that facilitated switching in the ultra-thin magnet interfaced with tungsten ditelluride. This innovative approach not only offers enhanced energy efficiency and scalability but also paves the way for the development of future-generation green computers.

Future Prospects and Implications of Atomically Layered Magnets

The successful demonstration of field-free deterministic switching in all-van der Waals spin-orbit torque systems above room temperature holds immense promise for the future of computing technology. With significantly lower current densities required for magnet switching and a substantial improvement in energy efficiency compared to bulk materials, atomically layered magnets present a pathway towards more sustainable and powerful computing devices.

Moving forward, the MIT research team is exploring additional low-symmetry van der Waals materials to further reduce current density and enhance energy efficiency. Collaborations with other researchers are also being pursued to scale up the production of 2D magnetic switch devices for commercial applications. By harnessing the unique capabilities of atomically layered magnets, such as improved interface properties and gate voltage tunability, the potential for flexible and transparent spintronic technologies in the realm of computing is on the horizon.

The development and integration of atomically layered magnets into computing devices have the potential to revolutionize the landscape of energy-efficient and sustainable computing, offering a glimpse into a future where green computers powered by innovative materials drive the next wave of technological advancement.

Links to additional Resources:

1. www.nature.com 2. www.science.org 3. www.pnas.org

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Magnetic materials, Two-dimensional materials, Spintronics

A magnet is a material or object that produces a magnetic field. This magnetic field is invisible but is responsible for the most notable property of a magnet: a force that pulls on other ferromagnetic materials, such as iron, steel, nickel, cobalt, etc. and attracts or repels other magnets. A...
Read more: Magnet

Single-layer materials
In materials science, the term single-layer materials or 2D materials refers to crystalline solids consisting of a single layer of atoms. These materials are promising for some applications but remain the focus of research. Single-layer materials derived from single elements generally carry the -ene suffix in their names, e.g. graphene....
Read more: Single-layer materials

Spintronics (a portmanteau meaning spin transport electronics), also known as spin electronics, is the study of the intrinsic spin of the electron and its associated magnetic moment, in addition to its fundamental electronic charge, in solid-state devices. The field of spintronics concerns spin-charge coupling in metallic systems; the analogous effects...
Read more: Spintronics

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