Diamonds Are A Computer's Best Friend When It Comes To The Next Generation Of Speed And Power

Singer Madonna 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Physicists have demonstrated for the first time that information can flow through a diamond wire.

In an experiment, electrons did not flow through diamond as they do in traditional electronics. They stayed in place and pass along a magnetic effect called “spin” to each other down the wire, just like a row of spectators doing the Mexican wave at a sports ground.

Spin could one day be used to transmit data in computer circuits. The Ohio State University experiement showed that diamond transmits spin better than most metals.

Researchers worldwide are working to develop so-called spintronics which could make computers simultaneously faster and more powerful.

“To a scientist, diamonds are kind of boring, unless you’re getting engaged,” says the study’s lead scientist, Chris Hammel. “But it’s interesting to think about how diamond would work in a computer.”

The price tag for the diamond wire was $100 because it is made of synthetic, rather than natural, diamond.

The findings represent the first very small step along a very long road that could one day lead to diamond transistors.

But beyond that, this discovery could change the way researchers study spin, Hammel said.

The finding appears in the March 23 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Electrons attain different spin states according to the direction in which they’re spinning—up or down. Hammel’s team placed a tiny diamond wire in a magnetic resonance force microscope and detected that the spin states inside the wire varied according to a pattern.

“If this wire were part of a computer, it would transfer information. There’s no question that you’d be able to tell at the far end of the wire what the spin state of the original particle was at the beginning,” he said.

The physicists had to chill the wire to -269 degrees Celsius to slow down the spins enough to make these them detectable. Many advances would have to be made before the effect could be exploited at room temperature.

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