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Experimental Spin Ratchet
Published 2010 · Medicine, Physics
Spin Control Controlling and manipulating the spin of an electron is a central requirement for applications in spintronics. Some of the challenges researchers are facing include efficient creation of spin currents, minimization of Joule heating, and extending the lifetime of electronic spins, which is especially important for quantum information applications. Costache and Valenzuela (p. 1645) address the first challenge by designing and fabricating an efficient and simple superconducting-based single-electron transistor that can produce spin current with controlled flow. Key to the design is asymmetric tunneling, which leads to a ratchet effect (or diode-like behavior), allowing the separation of up and down spins. Jonietz et al. (p. 1648) use electric currents five orders of magnitude smaller than those used previously in nanostructures to manipulate magnetization in a bulk material, MnSi, pointing the way toward decreased Joule heating in spintronic devices. This so-called spin-torque effect causes the rotation of the skyrmion lattice of spins, characteristic of MnSi, which is detected by neutron scattering. Finally, McCamey et al. (p. 1652) extend the short lifetime of an electronic spin of a phosphorous dopant by mapping it onto the much longer lived nuclear spin of the atom. Mapping the nuclear spin back onto the electronic spin allows production of a spin memory with a storage time exceeding 100s, which should prove useful for future practical applications. A superconducting-based single-electron device is used to control the flow of electronic spin currents. Spintronics relies on the ability to transport and use the spin properties of an electron rather than its charge. We describe a spin ratchet at the single-electron level that produces spin currents with no net bias or charge transport. Our device is based on the ground-state energetics of a single-electron transistor comprising a superconducting island connected to normal leads via tunnel barriers with different resistances that break spatial symmetry. We demonstrate spin transport and quantify the spin ratchet efficiency by using ferromagnetic leads with known spin polarization. Our results are modeled theoretically and provide a robust route to the generation and manipulation of pure spin currents.