A major European initiative is underway to develop a new breed of faster, low-power computing devices based on the physical phenomenon of spintronics.Nanospin is a European Commission project bringing together eight academic and industrial collaborators to develop new types of spintronic nanoscale devices using ferromagnetic semiconductors. The University of Würzburg will co-ordinate the project.

The project will use gallium manganese arsenide, a ferromagnetic semiconductor that is well understood but only operates at extremely low temperatures, to prove the technology. The team hopes that the resulting technology will in the longer term work with room-temperature semiconductors.

Another collaborator in the project is Nottingham University, whose role is to supply and investigate suitable materials. Bryan Gallagher, professor of physics and a consultant for project industrial partner Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory, said: 'We grow perfect crystals monolayer-by-monolayer using molecular beam epitaxy. We deposit a set number of monolayers of one semiconductor, then more monolayers of another on top to make high-quality materials.'

The researchers believe the technology could take 10 years to come to market if a suitable room temperature semiconductor can be found, but they emphasis that spintronics is not the only technique being investigated.