Elements
S1 E58

Could Magnonics Spark the Extinction of Electronics?

Using magnets to power electronics may soon become a reality with new research in the field of magnonics.

Is there a better, more efficient alternative to electronic processes? Usually, electronics work by moving electrons through circuits and logic gates to perform calculations, but in doing so must overcome resistance, which wastes energy and generates heat. So instead of forcing electrons to push each other along, researchers are looking into ways to make them do the wave: meet "magnonics."

Electrons have a property called spin, and this spin can be oriented either up or down. Atoms can generate magnetic fields if the spins of their electrons align. When energy is applied to that magnetic field, the direction of the field is reversed and the strength of the field weakens. The energy that dampened the magnetic field is passed along and this wave of energy can be thought of as a particle called a magnon. Magnons can be used to carry information.

However, while the silicon circuits that conduct electrons are relatively easy to make, the magnets that transport magnons are not. Most researchers use a material called yttrium iron garnet, or YIG, but it is notoriously difficult to make, and to combine with other materials. Researchers have tested a few materials, and the most promising seems to be a material called vanadium tetracyanoethylene. This material was the first carbon based magnet that was stable at room temperature, but once exposed to oxygen, it would burst into flames.

While it's difficult to work with magnons, and even harder to develop new transistors for them, researchers have found it possible to convert a magnon into an electrical signal. This means researchers could simply combine magnonics and electronics which would bring them one step closer to smaller, faster, and more efficient computers.

More Videos