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    Jordan Katrine

    Although practical nanotechnologies devices are often portrayed as being light years away, Jordan Katine is making them part of the present. In 1999, Katine demonstrated how to alter a nanomaterial’s magnetic orientation by sending a “spin-polarized” current through it- a current composed of electrons all spinning in the same direction, rather than in random directions as in common electrical current. To exploit this effect and boost the density of magnetic storage, Katine made “nanopillars smaller than 100 nanometers across, composed of a magnetic layer at each end separated by a copper layer. By sending spin-polarized current through the pillar, he got its electrons to spin in the same direction and aligned the magnetic layers; reversing the direction of current flow reversed the electron, which flipped the magnetic layers back. The nanopillars can assume one of two magnetic states, and thus can serve as bits in storage systems. Katine, a research staff member at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies in San Jose, CA, has already used a similar technique to pack more bits onto magnetic recording heads in computer hard drives that Hitachi is selling. Much as the former College Bowl whiz enjoys publishing in Physical Review Letters, he also likes going to Circuit City and saying, “I built this.”