MIT research scientist Jagadeesh Moodera and his team have developed a material that works for spintronics at room temperature and is easy to create. The material is indium oxide, which is similar to the material used to conduct charge in an ATM’s touch screen, with a small amount of chromium added to make it magnetic. Other materials that might work, Moodera says, include zinc oxide, widely used in sunscreen, and titanium oxide. The magnetic semiconductor would polarize the spin of the electrons, which then flow into the silicon chip where circuits would use them to perform calculations, while a detector, probably made of the same material as the spin injector, would read them as they flow out.
The material needs more development before it can be tested in an actual circuit. But Don Heiman, a professor of physics at Northeastern University, calls the creation of a magnetic semiconductor that works at room temperature “a pretty big breakthrough.”