A new “spin battery” technology developed by a UM physicist in collaboration with researchers in Japan could lead to an array of important advances—such as computer hard drives that operate more quickly and use less energy, thanks to no moving parts.
University of Miami physicist Stewart E. Barnes of UM’s College of Arts and Sciences
Computers that cost less, work faster, and use less energy than current models. Cars that run on battery power. These and other applications may one day be made possible by a “spin battery” which, something like a toy car, is “wound up” by applying a large magnetic field to nano-magnets in a device called a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ).
Created by University of Miami physicist Stewart E. Barnes of UM’s College of Arts and Sciences and collaborators at the Universities of Tokyo and Tohoku, Japan, the new battery converts magnetic energy directly into electrical energy without a chemical reaction. The electrical current made in this process, called a spin polarized current, is the basis of a novel technology called “spintronics.”
The new discovery, reported in Nature magazine, sheds fresh light on the way magnets work. It also could lead to a variety of applications in electronic elements that operate differently from conventional transistors.
Although the device tested has a diameter about that of a human hair and cannot even light up an LED (light-emitting diode—a light source used as electronic component), it “produced a voltage more than 100 times too big and for tens of minutes, rather than milliseconds,” Barnes notes.
The possibilities, he adds, are endless. “Magnets are in many things—for example, in a mobile telephone, in a car, and even a refrigerator door,” Barnes points out. “There are so many that even a small change in the way we understand how they work could have a significant financial and energetic impact.”
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