Page 39 - European Energy Innovation - Spring 2016 publication
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Spring 2016 European Energy Innovation    39


Spintronics: A path towards

ultra-low power electronics

Spintronics or spin-electronics           when powered-off), the speed of SRAM        Characterization of magnetization
            is a merging between          (used in Cache memory), the density         switching dynamics at sub-nanosecond
            magnetism and electronics.    and write endurance of DRAM. Among          time scale in spintronic devices
            Whereas conventional          all emerging non-volatile memory
microelectronics only uses the charge     technologies (Phase change RAM,           has filed more than 80 patents and
of the electrons, spintronics also uses   resistive RAM), they are the only ones    spun off three start-up companies:
its spin which is its intrinsic magnetic  having a long enough write endurance      Crocus Technology developing/
moment. Magnetic materials constitute     to be used as main working memories       producing magnetic memories and
spin polarizers and analyzers. As in      in complex electronic circuits such as    magnetic field sensors; EVADERIS, a
optics where polarizers and analyzers     microprocessors.                          fabless company of design of ultra-low
can be used to tune light beam                                                      power hybrid silicium/magnetic circuits
intensity, magnetic stacks comprising     Thanks to their non-volatility, they      particularly suited for the Internet of
magnetic layers alternating with          allow powering off all temporarily        Things (IoT) and Hprobe developing
non-magnetic ones allow tuning the        unused parts of electronic circuits       STT-MRAM electronic probers. SPINTEC
electrical current flow. In 1988, Pr      and instantaneously restart them on       also received 4 grants from the
A.Fert and P.Grunberg independently       demand. This significantly reduces their  European Research Council in the past
discovered the phenomenon of Giant        static power consumption (typically       6 years. l
Magnetoresistance (GMR) in magnetic       >4x). In addition, since these magnetic
multilayers. This discovery launched      memories do not use the properties of       CONTACT DETAILS
this whole field of spintronics. They     the silicon wafer, the memory level can     For any information, contact us at
received the Nobel Physics Prize for      be straightforwardly stacked above the
that in 2007. Since then, a number of     logic level.
breakthrough discoveries such as the
possibility to switch the magnetization   Compared to standard technology
of magnetic nanostructures by a current   where logic and memory must be
flow, have dramatically expended the      built side to side on the silicon wafer,
range of investigations in this field.    this stacked approach makes the
                                          communication between memory and
Since its birth, spintronics has          logic much more efficient in terms of
largely benefited from a strong           bandwidth and energy consumption.
synergy between basic research and        This also reduces the dynamic power
applied developments. Materials           consumption of electronic circuits.
called spin-valves exhibiting giant       Thanks to this hybrid semiconductor/
magnetoresistance at low magnetic         magnetic technology, a new Normally-
fields were introduced in the read        Off/Instant-On electronics is emerging.
heads of hard disk drives (HDD) in        In Europe, SPINTEC laboratory is
1998 allowing an annual doubling          particularly active in discovering
of the areal density stored in HDD.       new spintronic phenomena and
However, another very important           implementing them in spintronic
application of spintronics is arising in  devices.
microelectronics. Indeed, non-volatile
magnetic memories called STT-MRAM         SPINTEC was created in 2002 to
(Spin-Transfer-Torque Magnetic            bridge the gap between basic research
Random Access Memories) are about to      and applications in spin-electronics.
reach large volume production. These      Affiliated to CEA, CNRS and Grenoble
memories combine the non-volatility of    Alpes University, it now counts 30
FLASH (ability to keep the information    researchers. Since its creation, SPINTEC
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