Nano technology is now expanding into the world of MP3 players and iPods, the journal Nature Physics reports in its November issue.

The MP3 and iPod technology wouldn’t exist if not for spin valve read-heads, in which an electron’s spin, not its charge, is manipulated.

Now researcher Christian Schoenenberger and colleagues at the University of Basel, Switzerland, describe a carbon nanotube transistor operating on a similar principle, opening a promising avenue toward the introduction of spin-based devices into computer chips.

Conventional computer chips process information by encoding it in the form of electronic charge. But the spin of an electron can, in principle, be used for the same operations. Advantages of spin-based circuits — or spintronics — include lower power consumption, higher speed, and, most importantly, the potential to do things, such as quantum computation, that conventional electronics can’t perform.

Schoenenberger’s team developed a device consisting of a single carbon nanotube connected to two magnetic electrodes that control the orientation of the electrons’ spins.

Theoretical proposals for constructing so-called spin transistors have been around for many years, but this is the first time that such a device has been realized, Nature Physics reported.

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