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Bernie Goldie

Invention of new class of materials has physics world in a spin

The announcement of the invention of a new class of materials is expected to pave the way for a range of new technological advances such as fast and slim laptops to powerful internet search engines.

Details of the new class of materials invented by a University of Wollongong researcher is being released in the latest issue of the highly-respected physics journal, Physical Review Letters, published by the American Physical Society.

The researcher behind the invention is Associate Professor Xiaolin Wang who is a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow and the Co-oordinator of Spintronic and Electronic Materials at the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) in UOW’s Faculty of Engineering. Professor Wang acknowledged his project was assisted by funding support from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grants and through its QE II Fellowship Program.

According to Professor Wang, the discovery could open the door to a wealth of new scientific and technological possibilities such as fast and slim laptops, better multi-functional and slim music players such as IPods, MP3 players and improved powerful internet search engines -- all of which require hard discs where information is densely packed.

Professor Wang said that in quantum solid-state band theory, materials in nature were generally classified as insulators, semiconductors and metals. Researchers throughout the world have been searching for years to find a new class of materials which is different from these materials. Modern electronic devices are all based on the charges of electrons in semiconductors or metals.

“An electron has two important properties -- one is its negative electric charge and the other is commonly referred to as its spin,” Professor Wang said.

“Conventional electronics and its devices use only the electron’s charge for information processing. When both spin and charge are used simultaneously, astonishing and unusual physical phenomena occur. It may mean these materials are used in devices that can process information much faster and store significantly more data than the devices we currently use,” Professor Wang said.

ISEM Director, Professor Shixue Dou, said the Institute started the spintronic research in 1998 and many of its research papers have attracted significant citations.

For further information contact Associate Professor Xiaolin Wang on (02) 4221 5766; Professor Shixue Dou on (02) 4221 4558; or Dr Scott Needham (Manager of Innovation and Commercialisation) on (02) 4221 4470 or 0439 135 268 (m).