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The Skyrmion transistor is driving quantum research and AI

May 25, 2023

(Nanowerk News) In an era marked by increasing energy crises, the world is on the brink of a transformative revolution in spintronics technology, promising ultra-low power consumption paired with superior performance. To illustrate the potential, consider this: the power consumed by AlphaGo during its acclaimed game of Go in 2016 is equal to the daily power usage of 100 households. In 2021, Tesla’s autonomous driving AI will need more than ten times the amount of power to learn.

In response to this growing demand, the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS) has pioneered the world’s first transistor capable of controlling skyrmions. This breakthrough paves the way for the development of the next generation of ultra-low power devices and is anticipated to make a significant contribution to quantum research and AI.

Skyrmions, arranged in a vortex-like spin structure, are unique in that they can be miniaturized to a few nanometers, allowing them to be moved with very low power. These characteristics position it as an important element in the evolution of spintronic applications.

The explosive growth of electronic engineering in the 21st century can be traced back to the invention of the transistor in 1947 at Bell Laboratories in the United States. Acting as amplifiers and switches for electric current, transistors are very important in the field of electronic engineering. The discovery of the skyrmion in 2009 sparked extensive research into skyrmion-based transistors, but the absence of the essential technology to control the motion of the skyrmion derailed these efforts.

This bottleneck has been overcome with the newly developed KRISS skyrmion transistor, which utilizes proprietary technology to electronically control the movement of skyrmions fabricated in a magnetic material. This innovative solution enables precise control of the flow or termination of skyrmions, similar to the way conventional transistors modulate electric current.

An important aspect of managing the movement of magnetic skyrmions lies in controlling the magnetic anisotropy, which affects the energy of the skyrmions. Previous studies attempted to regulate the magnetic anisotropy through movement of oxygen within the device but failed to achieve uniform control. Addressing this challenge, the KRISS Quantum Spin Team developed a breakthrough method for uniform control of magnetic anisotropy by utilizing hydrogen in an aluminum oxide insulator, marking a world first in the experimental implementation of the skyrmion transistor.

This achievement represents another foundational technology for spintronic devices, following the institute’s 2021 achievements in the creation, removal and movement of skyrmions. The emergence of the spintronic transistor is set to accelerate the development of spintronic-based devices, such as neuromorphic and logic devices, which offer substantial advantages in power consumption, stability, and speed over traditional electronic devices.

Dr. Chan Yong Hwang, director of KRISS Quantum Technology Institute, stated, “Major Korean companies are shifting their focus to next-generation semiconductors that use spintronics to surpass the current limitations of silicon semiconductors. We plan to advance spintronics-related technologies further and incorporate them into devices.” next-generation semiconductors and quantum technology.”

Reflecting on the importance of this achievement, Dr. Seungmo Yang, a senior researcher at KRISS, stated, “Transistors fueled the digital revolution of the 20th century. Now, the skyrmion transistor is poised to catalyze a similar transformation, driving the spintronics technology revolution of the 21st century.”

This research has been published in Advanced Materials (“Gated Magnetic Skyrmion Transistor with Voltage Controlled Magnetic Anisotropy”).

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