Break-through in Science

The Center for Quantum Spintronics (QuSpin) explores new ways of controlling electric signals in nanotechnology. Professor Arne Brataas explains the milestone of the new research – and shares his experience with Acem Meditation.  QuSpin has recently published a break-through in the scientific journal Nature¹.

Meditation stimulates creativity

Since you practice Acem Meditation and have chosen to make it a regular part of your daily life, let’s start with your experience.

Acem Meditation is vital for me. It helps me to relax and reduces restlessness. I believe that my daily meditation gives increased awareness, encourages personal growth and contributes to a better balance in my life. After nearly 30 years of practice, I have also learned that meditation stimulates my creativity. I benefit from this as a scientist. The insight from Acem meditation has made it possible to reach for higher, but yet realistic goals. All these positive outcomes are essential, also in the milestone scientific work.

You are the leader of the Center of excellence QuSpin, with a group of young researchers who are part of the team. What kind of competence is required in this part of your work?

There are many ways to manage scientific groups. I try to facilitate everyone to make the best use of their potential, individually and through collaborations. I cherish the relaxation, guidance, and new insights gained at Acem Meditation retreats. Besides, Acem’s training in interpersonal communication gives me insight into how people interact in groups. When a team manages to work creatively as a collective entity, they make better use of their potential, rather than wasting talents on competition and conflicts. An ideal situation is when people manage to create something novel together that would not be possible as a single member. In scientific work, this makes an enormous difference.

Scientific break-through – can you briefly explain what you found? 

We can send and control an unconventional current in a common material. In our experiments, we use rust, an insulator with a very poor electrical conductivity. Therefore, it is not electric charges that carry the current as in metals like iron. Instead, the exotic current uses a lesser-known feature. The electron also has a spin in addition to its electric charge. The spin is quantum-mechanical property and acts as if the electron rotates around an axis. In rust, we manage to propagate the internal rotation of the electrons beyond 80 micrometres. While the range of this spin current may seem a small distance in our daily lives, it is more than sufficient when used in nanoelectronics.  Furthermore, we can inject, manipulate, and detect the spin current with conventional electronics.

What are the implications of the findings?

Our results pave the way to electrically tunable insulator-based spin-logic devices. They can trigger a revolution in the operation of low-power information and communication technologies.

Interview by Anne Grete Hersoug

¹ LeBrun, R., et al. (2018). “Tunable long-distance spin transport in a crystalline antiferromagnetic iron oxide”, Nature 561, 222-225, DOI  10.1038/s41586-018-0490-7

Professor Arne Brataas is the director of the new Center of excellence QuSpin at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway. He is also an Acem Meditation Instructor.

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