Singapore sets up consortium for research into spintronics

  • To develop next-generation technologies for data storage and logic applications
  • Also aims to attract more companies to conduct spintronics activities in Singapore
Singapore sets up consortium for research into spintronics

SINGAPORE has set up a research consortium to explore innovative electron spin-based technologies for sensor, memory and logic applications.
The Singapore Spintronics Consortium (SG-Spin) will facilitate collaborative research partnerships between institutes of higher learning and industry, the founding members said in a statement.
In addition to facilitating open innovation amongst multiple parties, SG-Spin aims to grow and attract more companies to conduct spintronics activities in Singapore.
The founding members are the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Applied Materials Inc, Delta Electronics and Global Foundries, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last week.
The five organisations have agreed to cooperate and collaborate in spintronics R&D (research and development) activities. The NUS Industry Liaison Office, which is part of NUS Enterprise, took the lead in driving and facilitating this collaboration, the members said.
SG-Spin is led by Professor Wu Yihong from the NUS Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and is supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore and NTU’s NTUitive.
An emerging technology
Spintronics is an emerging technology that utilises the intrinsic spin of electrons and associated magnetic moment, in addition to their electronic charge that is exclusively used in existing electronic devices, SG-Spin.
This area of research can potentially lead to more energy-efficient, larger capacity and faster devices compared with current technology.
Spintronics technology is already used in hard disk drives and magnetic field sensors. Potential new applications include non-volatile memory, logic and biomedical devices.
Singapore sets up consortium for research into spintronics “SG-Spin is an excellent platform to galvanise spintronics research efforts in Singapore, for a more synergistic and targeted outcome,” said Dr Lily Chan (pic), chief executive officer of NUS Enterprise.
“Over the past few years, NRF Singapore has supported a number of spintronics research projects which have helped to build on the spintronics capabilities in NUS. We hope that this new consortium will help commercialise such research, so it can be translated into new applications that benefit society.
“The industry stands to benefit significantly from participating in SG-Spin, as it gains access to in-depth research findings as well as new opportunities for licensing spintronics-related intellectual property.
“From a national point of view, Singapore will benefit from these research collaborations in spintronics, due to the training of manpower and seeding of the next phase of semiconductor development jobs here,” she added.
Dr Lim Jui, chief executive officer of CEO of NTUitive, NTU’s commercialisation arm, said that the university is excited to be part of this coordinated academic-industrial effort to translate technologies in an area in which he said Singapore has deep strengths.
“Spintronics is an interdisciplinary field which merges mechanical and electronic engineering with physics. In recent years, NTU has been making a global impact in engineering and physics, through our strengths in translational research and industry partnerships.
“By working hand in hand with our consortium partners, we aim to make a real difference to the global spintronics landscape, and in so doing, deliver economic benefit to Singapore,” he added.
Driving the next phase
SG-Spin will help to drive the next phase of spintronics development and related fields in Singapore. It will also help to build up networks and partnerships within the sector.
Currently, several projects by NUS and NTU in collaboration with GlobalFoundries have been identified under SG-Spin in four areas of future electronics:

  • New magnetic materials and structures for sub-10nm (nanometre) non-volatile memories with almost infinite endurance. This project aims to increase the speed and capacity of data storage, without the loss of data over almost infinitely long periods.
  • Spin-orbit engineering for energy-efficient memory and logic devices. The success of this project will provide balanced solutions in energy efficiency without sacrificing performance for future electronic gadgets, which is crucial as we migrate into the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), SG-Spin said.
  • Electric field control of magnetism for ultra-low power spintronic devices. If realised, this will be a revolutionary way of switching magnetic memories between ‘0’ and ‘1’ using an electric field instead of electric current, thereby significantly reducing power dissipation.
  • Advanced theoretical computation for predicting new materials and structures for next-generation spintronic devices that can potentially shorten the cycle time by multiple folds during the design phase for new devices by eliminating experimental trial and errors.

Singapore has been building up its spintronics capabilities since the late 1990s, and the NRF has supported five Competitive Research Programmes in this area, investing approximately S$39 million (US$30 million) – four at NUS and one at NTU.
These research projects cover a wide range of topics, including electric-field controlled magnetic memory, spin wave and pure spin current devices, spin-orbit and spin transfer torque devices, spin transistors and domain wall memory.
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