Scientific Background

The field of information technology (IT) is a key driving force in today’s world while having an impact on our future. Our life is unimaginable without various IT devices, which represent a growing market segment of the global economy and will become even moreimportant in the future, as we are moving towards the “information and communication everywhere”society. At the same time, the power consumption of IT devices constitutes a sizeable and further growing part of the global power consumption. From a few percent at the moment, the IT power consumption is expected to reach 5 Trillion kWh in 2025 constituting 15% of the total power generation thus making IT a formidable player in the societal challenge of sustainable energy.

Today’s IT devices are based on semiconductor technology, which is currently experiencing a tremendous increase in performance. Nevertheless, semiconductor technology faces severe limitations on the time horizon of 2020 and beyond. Indeed, the key issue for IT devices is scaling, given the continuous trend towards miniaturization as manifested in Moore’s law. However, as the gate length of semiconductor transistors shrinks below the design rule of 45 nm, leakage currents reduce their performance, which calls for alternative approaches. This holds not only true for semiconductor processor devices but also for other crucial constituents of IT devices, such as memory and sensors. Although electrons have an electric charge and a spin, conventional electronics in IT devices only utilizes the charge. In recent years researchers have investigated the additional degree of freedom provided by using the spin of the electron in devices based on spin transport phenomena.

Spintronics is characterized by non-volatility enabling low power consumption and good scalability. Thus it is a top candidate for the technological realization of future micro electronic IT applications. Beyond just replacing current semiconductor microelectronics devices with spintronics devices, spintronics also offers the next step. It combines for instance logic and memory functionality on a single chip resulting in a radically simplified device architecture. This will allow one to create new technological pathways towards advanced applications such as fast reprogrammable content addressable memory which further underlines the potential of spintronics.