Graphene has had an unusual history in the world of spintronics where the intrinsic spin of an electron is used to encode information rather than its charge. At first, graphene was dismissed in these applications because when it is laid out flat, the spin of the electrons is unaffected and their direction remains random rather than patterned. But a host of research projects changed this idea when results indicated a great deal of possible uses for graphene in spintronic applications.
The latest research comes from a team at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in which a layer of graphene is placed between layers of nickel and iron. The layering creates the first thin-film junction device capable of spin filtering at room temperature. The results could be a boon for next-generation magnetic random access memory (MRAM) in which spin-polarized pulses flip a magnetic bit from 0 to 1 and back again.