The research team of electrical and computer engineers from the Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Engineering and the University of Cincinnati examined the ‘spin’ of electrons in organic nanowires, which are ultra-small structures made from organic materials. These structures have a diameter of 50 nanometers, which is 2,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The spin of an electron is a property that makes the electron act like a tiny magnet. This property can be used to encode information in electronic circuits, computers, and virtually every other electronic gadget.
"In order to store and process information, the spin of an electron must be relatively robust. The most important property that determines the robustness of spin is the so-called 'spin relaxation time,' which is the time it takes for the spin to 'relax.' When spin relaxes, the information encoded in it is lost. Therefore, we want the spin relaxation time to be as long as possible," said corresponding author Supriyo Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the VCU School of Engineering.
"Typically, the spin relaxation time in most materials is a few nanoseconds to a few microseconds. We are the first to study spin relaxation time in organic nanostructures and found that it can be as long as a second. This is at least 1000 times longer than what has been reported in any other system," Bandyopadhyay said.
The team fabricated their nanostructures from organic molecules that typically contain carbon and hydrogen atoms. In these materials, spin tends to remain relatively isolated from perturbations that cause it to relax. That makes the spin relaxation time very long.