The University of Minnesota has received funding to the tune of $10.3 million to establish a research center on spintronic materials and devices. The funding comes from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and its partners in the Nanoelectronic Computing Research (nCORE) consortium, which includes the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), 12 semiconductor industry sponsors, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Called Center for Spintronic Materials in Advanced Information Technologies (SMART), it will be led by the University’s Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Robert F. Hartmann Chair in Electrical Engineering, Jian-Ping Wang as director. It will also include researchers from Georgetown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Maryland.
Spintronics (where the spin properties of electrons are harnessed) offers several advantages over conventional electronics such as higher speeds, improved energy efficiency, and greater stability. SMART will bring together experts in spintronic materials and device innovations, which will define new computing paradigms such as neuromorphic computing, probabilistic computing, in-memory computing, and wave-based information processing.
Prof. Wang explains, “Future computation systems will place heavy emphasis on computational paradigms such as neuromorphic structures for cognitive computing, in-memory computing for big-data applications, and reconfigurable structures that are adaptive to changing application needs. These systems will need to be error-resilient and will require high-endurance devices. Spin-based materials and devices provide an ideal platform to satisfy these requirements, and they have been shown to map naturally to these computational paradigms. The inherent non-volatility of spintronic materials, along with the ability to precisely control interactions between them, offer abundant possibilities for developing novel spin devices for a wide variety of information processing needs.”
Future computation systems will have to be error-resilient and will require high-endurance devices. Spin-based materials and devices satisfy these requirements.
To make such devices and bold new paradigms a possibility, spintronic materials have to be further developed and fine-tuned. SMART will be a fully integrated, multi-institutional, and cross-disciplinary program.
Associate director of SMART, Prof. Caroline Ross, Toyota Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT emphasizes the cross-disciplinary nature of the Center. “Driven by the needs of well-defined next-generation computing architectures and paradigms, SMART is a materials-focused research center that also incorporates development of spintronic devices and measurement and metrology techniques.”
The SMART research portfolio is organized around advanced spintronic materials research. The research themes focus on three classes of spintronic materials that have shown exceptional promise in recent years: novel spin-orbit torque materials, ultra-low loss spin-wave materials, and magneto-ionic materials. These themes are supported by principal investigators (PI) performing cross-theme tasks in modeling, state-of-the-art characterization techniques, and a multi-theme focus on developing industry-compatible manufacturing technologies. Collaborations with other SRC centers will develop SMART materials and devices for use in novel computing paradigms.
University of Minnesota successfully housed the STARnet C-SPIN Center in the past five years.