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Researchers from IMDEA-Nanociencia Institute and from Autonoma and Complutense Universities of Madrid (Spain) have managed to give graphene magnetic properties. The breakthrough, published in the journal 'Nature Physics', opens the door to the development of graphene-based spintronic devices, that is, devices based on the spin or rotation of the electron, and could transform the electronics industry.
Spintronics is based on the charge of the electron, as in traditional electronics, but also on its spin, which determines its magnetic moment. A material is magnetic when most of its electrons have the same spin.
As the spin can have two values, its use adds two more states to traditional electronics. Thus, both data processing speed and quantity of data to be stored on electronic devices can be increased, with applications in fields such as telecommunications, computing, energy and biomedicine.
In order to develop a graphene-based spintronic device, the challenge was to 'magnetise' the material, and researchers from Madrid have found the way through the quantum and nanoscience world.
The technique involves growing an ultra perfect grapheme film over a ruthenium single crystal inside an ultra high vacuum chamber whereorganic molecules of tetracyano-p-quinodimethane (TCNQ) are evaporated on the grapheme surface. TCNQ is a molecule that acts as a semiconductor at very low temperatures in certain compounds.