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Research Fellows Directory

Gavin Bell

Dr Gavin Bell

Research Fellow

Organisation

University of Warwick

Research summary

Our ability to manipulate tiny electric currents and charges has changed the world. The transistors on a typical silicon chip work by pushing electrons around using voltages, which act on their small negative charge. But electrons also have a property called "spin", which is sensitive to magnetic as well as electric fields. In a magnetic field, the spin tends to align either parallel or opposite to the field - towards the north or south pole. This "spin up" or "spin down" configuration is a beautiful analogue to the digital "0" or "1" bit of information. Processing and storing information using electron spins is a growing field of technology called "spintronics". It could be possible to develop ultra-low-power spintronic transistors which operate at high speed, for energy efficient computer processing (computer server farms, for example running financial, search and streaming services over the web, are enormous electricity consumers). It may be possible to combine processing and memory by building magnetic transistors which remember their magnetic state when the power is switched off. It may even be possible to use spins to perform quantum computation, i.e. as qubits rather than classical bits. Just as the technology of electronics depended on developing many semiconductor materials (and suitable insulators) spintronics will depend on understanding the behaviour of spins in real materials. The best source of spins is by using a magnetic material, in which there is naturally an imbalance between the numbers of spin up and spin down electrons. We are developing new materials called transition metal pnictides which are compatible with conventional semiconductors and have a very strong imbalance between spin up and spin down electrons. We plan to develop proof-of-concept spin devices using these materials over the next few years.

Grants awarded

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Jan 2002 - Sep 2009

Value: £379,925.06

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