Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed a new custom-made material that enabled them to performs measurements important for the emerging field of oxide spintronics.

The team engineered a highly ordered version of a magnetic oxide compound that naturally has two randomly distributed elements: lanthanum and strontium. The team members from ANL have mastered a technique for laying down the oxides one atomic layer at a time, allowing them to construct an exceptionally organized lattice in which each layer contains only strontium or lanthanum, so that the interface between the two components could be studied.

They found that the influence of electrons near the additional lanthanum layers was spread out across three magnetic layers in either direction, but fell off sharply further away than that. Tiffany Santos, lead scientist on the study from ANL, says that the measurement will be important for the emerging field of oxide spintronics, as it reveals a fundamental size unit for electronic and magnetic effects in memory devices made from the material.

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