Spintronics for future information technologies: spin currents in topological insulators controlled

The illustration depicts the characteristic spin orientation (arrows) of electrons in a topological insulator (below). Using an initial circular polarised laser pulse, the spins are excited and point up or down. This can be proven by a second linearly polarised laser pulse (above).

The illustration depicts the characteristic spin orientation (arrows) of electrons in a topological insulator (below). Using an initial circular polarised laser pulse, the spins are excited and point up or down. This can be proven by a second linearly polarised laser pulse (above).

An international team headed by HZB researcher Jaime Sánchez-Barriga has shown how spin-polarised currents can be initiated in a controlled manner within samples of topological insulator material. In addition, they were able to manipulate the orientation of the spins of these currents. They thereby demonstrated that this class of materials is suitable for data processing based on spin. The work has been published in the renowned periodical Physical Review B and was selected as “Editor’s Suggestion” article.

Future information technologies should employ considerably less energy for processing data. One exciting class of materials for this comprises topological insulators. Topological insulators are distinguished by their electrons at the surface being extremely mobile, while the bulk material within is an insulator and does not conduct. Since electrons also simultaneously carry a magnetic moment (spin), topological insulators might also make “spintronic” components feasible. Spintronic components would not be based on the movement of charge carriers like electrons (as in semiconductor components), but instead on the transport or manipulation of their spins. This would require considerably less energy.

An international team headed by HZB physicist Jaime Sánchez-Barriga has now shown how the spins of the electrons in topological insulators can be controlled. The team investigated samples of antimony-telluride, a topological insulator, using circularly polarised laser light. They were able to initiate and direct currents of electrons whose spins were oriented in parallel (i. e., spin-polarised currents) using the “rotational direction” of the laser light. In addition, they were successful in changing the orientation of the spins as well. The team was made up of experimentalists from the Max Born Institute in Berlin and Lomonossow University Moscow, together with theoreticians from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU). The work has been published in the renowned journal Physical Review B and was selected as “Editor’s Suggestion” article.

“If you were to utilise magnetically doped topological insulators, you could also probably store this spin information”, explains Oliver Rader, who heads the research group for green spintronics at HZB. “To investigate this however, and also be able to explore the dynamic behaviour of the magnetic moments in particular, ultra-short light pulses in the soft X-ray region are needed. These kinds of experiments can become standard with the planned upgrade of the BESSY II synchrotron source to BESSY-VSR”, he hopes.

Ultrafast spin-polarization control of Dirac fermions in topological insulators, J. Sánchez-Barriga, E. Golias, A. Varykhalov, J. Braun, L. V. Yashina, R. Schumann, J. Minár, H. Ebert, O. Kornilov, and O. Rader
Phys. Rev. B 93, 155426
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevB.93.155426


Link to the Editor's Suggestion


arö

You might also be interested in

  • Stability of perovskite solar cells reaches next milestone
    Science Highlight
    27.01.2023
    Stability of perovskite solar cells reaches next milestone
    Perovskite semiconductors promise highly efficient and low-cost solar cells. However, the semi-organic material is very sensitive to temperature differences, which can quickly lead to fatigue damage in normal outdoor use. Adding a dipolar polymer compound to the precursor perovskite solution helps to counteract this. This has now been shown in a study published in the journal Science by an international team led by Antonio Abate, HZB. The solar cells produced in this way achieve efficiencies of well above 24 %, which hardly drop under rapid temperature fluctuations between -60 and +80 Celsius over one hundred cycles. That corresponds to about one year of outdoor use.
  • HZB physicist appointed to Gangneung-Wonju National University, South Korea
    News
    25.01.2023
    HZB physicist appointed to Gangneung-Wonju National University, South Korea
    Since 2016, accelerator physicist Ji-Gwang Hwang has been working at HZB in the department of storage rings and beam physics. He has made important contributions to beam diagnostics in several projects at HZB. He is now returning to his home country, South Korea, having accepted a professorship in physics at Gangneung-Wonju National University.
  • Scientists Develop New Technique to Image Fluctuations in Materials
    Science Highlight
    18.01.2023
    Scientists Develop New Technique to Image Fluctuations in Materials
    A team of scientists, led by researchers from the Max Born Institute in Berlin and Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin in Germany and from Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States has developed a revolutionary new method for capturing high-resolution images of fluctuations in materials at the nanoscale using powerful X-ray sources. The technique, which they call Coherent Correlation Imaging (CCI), allows for the creation of sharp, detailed movies without damaging the sample by excessive radiation. By using an algorithm to detect patterns in underexposed images, CCI opens paths to previously inaccessible information. The team demonstrated CCI on samples made of thin magnetic layers, and their results have been published in Nature.