Commonly used industrial dyes hold the key to advancing the new science of 'spintronics', say researchers working on a new a £2.5 million study.

The new Basic Technology grant awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will support research into the magnetic properties of metal atoms found in industrial dyes such as Metal Phthalocyanine (MPc), a blue dye used in clothing. The team from the London Centre for Nanotechnology - a joint venture between Imperial College London and University College London - and the University of Warwick believes that finding ways to control and exploit these molecules will allow spintronics to be applied in new ways.

In order to advance spintronics, materials which combine both magnetic and semiconducting properties need to be found. The researchers believe that MPc, which is an organic semiconductor, holds the answer, and now aim to exploit the spin inherent in its metal atoms. Previous research carried out by this team has already demonstrated that spins in MPc can interact and these interactions can be switched – such switching is the first step towards use in information storage and logic operations.

The organic semiconductors to be used by the team for spintronics are very similar to those successfully used in solar cells and OLEDs, and which are leading the way into cheap 'plastic electronics'. This means that the benefits of organic semiconductors will be spread to more components of everyday electronics products such as computers and mobile telephones.