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Posted: March 28, 2008
The spin Hall effect in platinum is mainly caused by scattering within the wire
(Nanowerk News) When a wire carrying electric current is placed in a magnetic field, the flowing electrons are deflected by a force at right angles to the field. This phenomenon, called the Hall effect, has found applications in many types of electronic sensors.
Now scientists hope to build ‘spintronic’ devices using a similar phenomenon called the spin Hall effect, which results from a particle’s intrinsic angular momentum, or spin, rather than its electric charge. YoshiChika Otani and Takashi Kimura at the University of Tokyo and the RIKEN Frontier Research System in Wako have explained why the spin Hall effect is particularly strong in platinum ("Evolution of the Spin Hall Effect in Pt Nanowires: Size and Temperature Effects").
Any moving charged particle generates a magnetic field because of its spin. In the spin Hall effect, these spin magnetic moments are deflected by a right-angled force when they are placed in an electric field—the opposite case to the classical Hall effect. If the spins are all pointing in the same direction—a so-called ‘spin-polarized’ current—the spins accumulate at one edge of the wire. This opens up the possibility of generating and detecting spin currents without needing magnetic fields.
Scanning electron microscope image of the modified lateral spin valve for measuring the spin Hall effect in platinum. Permalloy (Py) and platinum (Pt) wires are indicated, all other components are copper. (Reproduced with permission from Physical Review Letters 99, 226604-2 (2007). Copyright (2007) by The American Physical Society)
Many researchers have looked at the spin Hall effect in semiconductors, because they are easily compatible with current technology. But the effect is small in semiconductors, especially compared to platinum, which has the largest spin Hall effect so far measured (" Room-Temperature Reversible Spin Hall Effect").
“For platinum, there is a lot of discussion concerning the origin of the spin Hall effect,” says Otani. “One [idea concerns an] intrinsic origin due to the electric band structure, another is an extrinsic origin due to defects or impurities.”
This new knowledge could allow greater control over the spin Hall effect. Unfortunately, the effect is largest at very low temperatures that are not practical for everyday devices—a problem the researchers hope to overcome in future. “At the moment, the observed spin Hall effect [at room temperature] is too small,” says Kimura. “The challenge will be how to enlarge the effect.”