Aussie scientists put faster laptops, iPods in a spin

A new class of materials invented by researchers at the University of Wollongong will make future gadgets work better and faster by tapping into the power of electrons.

A new class of materials invented by researchers at the University of Wollongong will make future gadgets work better and faster by tapping into the power of electrons.

The Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials has been working on a material which can harness two properties of electrons, charge and spin — or angular momentum. When spin and charge are used together in materials, they can be used to make devices which can process information much faster and store significantly more data than current devices, according to Associate Professor Xiaolin Wang.

This may lead to a new generation of electronic device, Wang said, including faster, smaller laptops, MP3 players such as iPods with more functions and more powerful Internet search engines.

In addition to higher storage capacity, the material could also improve the devices' efficiency. "When you spin an electron up and down, the energy use is very small," Wang said.

"It could be used in every aspect of conventional electronics," he added.

Current electronics are all based on the charge of electrons, according to Wang. "In a traditional semiconductor you don't take spin into account," Wang said, "you only use charge."

It's difficult to control the spin of an electron, according to Wang. The new class of material, called Spin Gapless Semiconductors, allows spin to be controlled by fixing it in one direction, he said. The number of electrons — or charge — can also be controlled, making the material unique, Wang said.