Lab Canada

National Research Council demonstrates new spintronic transistor

Ottawa, ON — January 24, 2003 — Researchers at National Research Council’s Institute for Microstructural Sciences (NRC-IMS) recently announced they have developed a spintronic transistor, a nanoscale device that could revolutionize the storage and transmission of information.

Spintronics is a relatively new field in which the electron’s spin, not just its charge, is exploited to create devices and circuits.

A team of scientists working in the area of quantum information and nanofabrication, led by Drs. Pawel Hawrylak and Andy Sachrajda, has successfully created a prototype of a “single spin” transistor made from a quantum dot.

This is an important advance because current electronics, which depends on the charge of electrons, is approaching its technological limit. Consequently, researchers worldwide are looking at ways to exploit the quantum property of an electron, namely its spin. The prototype device created at NRC shows how a single-spin based transistor could work.

The new transistor is based on quantum science. A quantum dot is actually an artificial atom. These dots exhibit quantum behaviour such as predictable and controllable energy levels. By connecting the dots to spin-polarized reservoirs through lateral tunneling barriers, scientists ensure that the electrons flowing in or out have their spins aligned up or down, allowing a high or low current to flow through the dot.

This combination of control over single charge and single spin may open the door in the future to solid-state forms of quantum computing, where the unit of quantum manipulation – called the qubit – would consist of specially prepared spin states.

“This device, which consists of a quantum dot with spin-polarized leads, could influence future generation transistors,” says Dr. Richard Normandin, Director General of the NRC Institute for Microstructural Sciences. “This demonstration in spintronics follows on the Institute’s groundbreaking work into quantum dots.”

For more details, go to the NRC’s website at