Integration of Novel Materials in Spintronic Devices

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering


The continued scaling of charge-based computing devices is reaching its limits and, both for more Moore (continued scaling) and more than Moore (functional diversification), the International Semiconductor Roadmap is looking at new materials and their integration in existing manufacturing technology. Two dimensional (2D) materials, such as graphene, exhibit unique electrical, thermal and mechanical properties and show promise as components for a wide range of device applications, in particular spintronics and next generation micro/optoelectronics and systems. Graphene can not only support very high carrier mobilities and current densities, but also has small spin-orbit coupling and large electron coherence length. Also, due to its atomic thickness, it is very interesting for tunnel junction device architectures. With hundreds of millions of computer hard drives sold every year, magnetism is currently the main repository of information storage. It is the electron "spin," the elementary nanomagnet, that carries the information. Beyond storage, spintronics and such new device architectures are foreseen as the foundation for a new paradigm for information processing toward low-power-consumption nonvolatile "green" electronics.
This proposal aims at creating an international research network to develop new integrated electronic and spin-based device concepts based on 2D materials, to overcome key experimental problems such as controlled interfacing and to develop integrated manufacturing technology, which would allow 2D materials to enter the semiconductor roadmap, the key to unlocking their commercial potential. The proposal thereby combines the world leading expertise of the international partners, in particular on the development and manufacture of state-of-the-art semiconductor devices of the Japanese Partners, on 2D manufacturing technology and device material know-how of the UK partners and the spintronics expertise of the French partners. The proposed research has a strong industrial alignment, paving the way for realistic routes to markets for these new materials and device architectures.

Planned Impact

The project addresses key questions relevant to industrial materials development of 2D materials, in particular their integrated manufacturing. The proposed collaboration builds on UK's track-record in carbon-based materials to make a significant impact on the area more globally, academically as well as industrially. These advanced materials and the proposed devices are areas of national importance to the UK and a key part of the EPSRC funding portfolio in particular fully in line with a number of EPSRC's emerging areas incl. the convergence of spintronics with very-large-scale-integrated-circuits.
The market for these 2D materials and all commercialisation strategies are currently limited by a lack of scalable manufacturing pathways, in particular regarding applications in the lucrative high-tech market. Hence the proposed research programme is highly relevant to the academic research relating to graphene and other 2D materials and crucial to increase the industrial relevance of these advanced materials, and to enable commercial dividends to be paid on the substantial investment that the UK (and other partner countries) has already made in graphene research, and which it will make in the future.
The project has a strong industrial alignment including a large number of existing world-wide industrial partners of the consortium. For the Cambridge team, the proposal links closely to existing EPSRC funding in particular the Graphene Centre and the grant GRAPHTED (EP/K016636/1) as well as the doctoral training centres on Nano and Graphene. The proposed international research network will significantly increase also the impact of this existing EPSRC funding. We infer that the technology IP created will yield long-term economic benefits to the UK, which will accrue as capability grows.
The long term societal impact of our project can be significant in particular through the proposed breakthrough technology for the next generation semiconductor devices. Over the last 60 years the progress in the semiconductor industry has revolutionised our society, bringing it into the Digital Age, and further progress in this technology which our programme focuses on will help to continue progressing our knowledge-based society surrounded by a high-tech global economy.
Description Magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) are key components within magnetic storage devices such as hard disk drives. We have realised that a layer material, hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) could be a good tunnel barrier layer instead of the presently used crystalline MgO. We know so far that h-BN is an excellent diffusion barrier (which MgO is not). and we are trying to see whether h-BN will have the tunnel selectivity that is possible with MgO.
Exploitation Route Used in electronic devices.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics

Description The use of h-BN for tunnel barriers in magnetic tunnel barriers could have valuable technical uses, it depends on the next research steps.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics
Impact Types Economic