CONTACT: GARY GALLUZZO
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0009; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: June 18, 2001
UI researcher receives $1.3 million in 'next generation' electronics grants
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michael Flatté, professor in the College of Liberal
Arts department of physics and astronomy, has been awarded two grants totaling
nearly $1.3 million by the U.S. Department of Defense to help develop the
theory for faster electronic devices.
The new devices, in contrast to conventional semiconductor electronic devices
that move electrons back and forth to generate electric currents, will make
use of the fact that electrons behave as though they spin. The phenomenon,
known to physicists since the beginning of the 20th century, has given rise
to an entire field of technology referred to as "spintronics."
Possible applications of new, spintronic devices include faster computer
memories, which could replace both hard drives and ordinary computer memory.
Spintronic memory devices, like hard drives, would require no input of electrical
power in order to maintain stored information; however, access to the information
would be much more rapid. Spintronics also could lead to the development of
high-speed optical switches for telecommunications.
According to Flatté, the most outrageous possibility is that individual
electron spins could be used as "quantum bits," the elementary unit
of a "quantum computer." Quantum computers currently exist only
as theoretical proposals and limited experimental demonstrations, but a large
one would reach computational speeds beyond the reach of conventional computers.
He notes that quantum computers could rapidly solve certain problems that
are known to be practically unsolvable by conventional computers.
"Proposed semiconductor devices relying on electron spin already indicate
the promise of this technology. The real work will be in implementing them,"
says Flatté, who reported on a design for a reprogrammable logic device
using electron spin in the Feb. 26, 2001 issue of Applied Physics Letters.
Funding received by Flatté includes a three-year, $804,045 grant,
from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The DARPA work
will be completed in collaboration with separately funded projects at the
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the University of Pittsburgh.
The other grant, a $466,763 award, is part of a five-year, $5 million multi-university
research initiative funded by the Army Research Office (ARO) involving Cornell
University (as the lead institution) and California Institute of Technology,
UCSB, and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.
Flatté will conduct his research at the Optical Science and Technology
Center (OSTC), which provides opportunities for faculty in different disciplines
with a common interest in optics and optoelectronics to interact. The center
is located in the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories Building on the UI