New form of silicon discovered with room-temperature ferromagnetism

Researchers at North Carolina State University have made an exciting discovery – a new form of silicon called Q-silicon that exhibits ferromagnetic properties at room temperature. This finding holds great potential for advancements in quantum computing, particularly in the development of spin qubit quantum computers that rely on controlling electron spins.

According to Jay Narayan, the corresponding author of the published paper in Materials Research Letters and the John C. Fan Family Distinguished Chair in Materials Science, the discovery of robust room temperature ferromagnetism in Q-silicon opens up new possibilities in atomic-scale, spin-based devices and their integration with nanoelectronics.

The scientific community has long been intrigued by the prospect of ferromagnetism in materials beyond transition metals and rare earths. Spin-polarized electrons in such materials offer the potential for information processing and storage at the atomic level. However, materials like carbon and silicon, which possess an even number of electrons without unpaired spins, were not previously considered promising candidates for bulk ferromagnetism due to the reconstruction of dangling bonds that eliminate sources of unpaired electrons.

The NC State researchers demonstrated that laser melting and quenching of silicon can lead to the formation of Q-silicon, with the entire process taking less than a fraction of a microsecond. Jay Narayan has been at the forefront of utilizing lasers to create materials with novel properties for over four decades.

In addition to its ferromagnetic properties, Q-silicon also exhibits enhanced hardness and superconductivity, making it even more intriguing. Narayan believes that this discovery of Q-silicon has the potential to revolutionize modern microelectronics by introducing new functionalities such as spintronics and spin-based quantum computing. Unlike conventional microelectronics that rely on the charge of an electron, Q-silicon harnesses the spin of the electron, enabling faster computing with significantly reduced power consumption.

Source: North Carolina State University

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