Theoretically speaking, we could exponentially increase computing power and capacity as well as build faster, more efficient electronic devices if we could but harness and manipulate the way in which electrons in individual atoms spin. But until recently, no one had been able to empirically observe this quantum characteristic in action. Now, researchers in Germany have seen atomic spin for the very first time, and captured a few tiny images to prove it.
A study published in the journal Nature Technology details how the team, composed of German and American physicists, built a custom microscope with an iron-coated tip to coax cobalt electrons to dance to their lead. By carefully positioning cobalt atoms on a plate of manganese, they were able to change the direction of the electron spin through tunneling microscopy, suggesting that we mere humans indeed can manipulate electrons at the quantum level.
That's exciting on a variety of fronts. For one, spintronics – an emerging and experimental field of electronics research – could one day replace our conventional electronics with smaller, more powerful devices. But more scintillating are the exponential leaps we could make in computer memory and processing by harnessing the spin in individual atoms.
"Different directions in spin can mean different states for data storage," said Saw-Wai Hla, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio University and a lead reseracher on the study. "The memory devices of current computers involve tens of thousands of atoms. In the future, we may be able to use one atom and change the power of the computer by the thousands."
But all that is still a ways off. To create a commercial device powered by electron spin, scientists will have to manipulate spin at room temperature, and right now they're more than 500 degress away from that milestone. The cobalt atoms in the experiment had to be cooled to 10 degrees Kelvin (-442 degrees Fahrenheit) with liquid helium in a vacuum in order for the researchers to observe electron spin. But visual confirmation that spin indeed exists and that we can influence the way it all goes down is the first big step into the future of computing.
Sorry to be pedantic but by my maths the difference is 275 degrees. Fahrenheit really has no place in a science document, in my humble opinion.
Sorry to be pedantic but your calculations are wrong the difference between the temperature needed and room temperature is 516.67 degrees, so as the article said, "more than 500 degrees". In order to convert Kelvin to Celsius you need to add 273.15 and then you just do the conversion to Fahrenheit.
-quantum physics is so last year-
Chausmachine is right... and this is Popular Science. It is written for the populace. Though they may have learned about converting between Celsius, Kelvin and Fahrenheit in high school, they don't want to have to do it here. Therefore, all pop sci articles should include units for both Fahrenheit and Kelvin in order to reach their reader base in a way they can best understand.
Science and Fahrenheit have no place in the same sentence, popular or not. Besides, look around the world... the metric system seems a lot more popular to me.
Uh...The only audience that matters are Americans. Duh.
Everyone else is irrelevant.
even funnier, is how many United States citizens really believe that.
And not to be pedantic, but Americans are anyone who lives in North, Central, or South America, or their territories.
Podboq: Yeah except I would rather be called Canadian to avoid people thinking I'm from the US.
I also agree though, fahrenheit has no place anywhere except, well no where. The only place the imperial system should be used is in things like construction where it is important that your measurements divide evenly. I pains me to no end whenever I see an old science text book, or a science textbook from the US, that uses the imperial system for measurements!
Yea cause when I say Im from America everyone always asks so South America,Central or north? But definitly metric unless your writing a article for an AMERICAN reader.
wow ... i had to post bc i think I saw a conversation go from atomic spin to politics and then back to atomic spin?
Just because a majority understands 'america' to exclude all Americans except U.S. Citizens doesn't make the majority any less uneducated.
At least this time the atoms don't look like the bottom of a egg carton.