Physicists often like to remind people that our simple-minded picture of electrons is woefully naive. Electrons aren’t so much tiny little particles whizzing around an atomic nucleus as they are a kind of fuzzy wave function–a probabilistic distributions of electric charge, forming an amorphous cloud. Funny thing, though: physics also tells us that electrons have spin–which is kind of hard to imagine about a probability cloud. But the experimental observations and the math all work out that way, and so there we are. Which brings us to today’s announcement that IBM and Stanford are teaming up to push what could become the next big thing in computing: spintronics. Electrons can spin in one of two ways, conventionally known as “up” and “down,” which indicates the direction of the magnetic field it produce. The phenomenon lends itself to binary systems, i.e. computing; manipulating the electrons’ spin (and hence magnetic field) could offer a new way to store and process informaion.
Spintronics technology is actually already in widespread use; the extraordinary expansion during the 1990s of computer hard drive capacity stems from the development of an IBM-discovered phenomenon called the giant magnetoresistive effect. And spintronic technology is at the heart of magnetic RAM (MRAM) technology which holds the promise of instant-on computing.
IBM is providing seed money for the venture, called The IBM-Stanford Spintronic Science and Applications Center (SpinAps). Stanford scientists will pull their share of the research load, and the two organizations will split the intellectual property. The IBM website talks about future developments such as reconfigurable logic devices, room-temperature superconductors, and quantum computers but says that commercial devices coming from the collaboration are at least five years out.
Meet Altos Labs, Silicon Valley’s latest wild bet on living forever
Funders of a deep-pocketed new "rejuvenation" startup are said to include Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner.
Tonga’s volcano blast cut it off from the world. Here’s what it will take to get it reconnected.
The world is anxiously awaiting news from the island—but on top of the physical destruction, the eruption has disconnected it from the internet.
Going bald? Lab-grown hair cells could be on the way
These biotech companies are reprogramming cells to treat baldness, but it’s still early days.
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.