Electrical spin injection in a ferromagnetic semiconductor heterostructure

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Conventional electronics is based on the manipulation of electronic charge. An intriguing alternative is the field of ‘spintronics’, wherein the classical manipulation of electronic spin in semiconductor devices gives rise to the possibility of reading and writing non-volatile information through magnetism1,2. Moreover, the ability to preserve coherent spin states in conventional semiconductors3 and quantum dots4 may eventually enable quantum computing in the solid state5,6. Recent studies have shown that optically excited electron spins can retain their coherence over distances exceeding 100 micrometres (ref. 7). But to inject spin-polarized carriers electrically remains a formidable challenge8,9. Here we report the fabrication of all-semiconductor, light-emitting spintronic devices using III–V heterostructures based on gallium arsenide. Electrical spin injection into a non-magnetic semiconductor is achieved (in zero magnetic field) using a p-type ferromagnetic semiconductor10 as the spin polarizer. Spin polarization of the injected holes is determined directly from the polarization of the emitted electroluminescence following the recombination of the holes with the injected (unpolarized) electrons.

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Figure 1: Electrical spin injection in an epitaxially grown ferromagnetic semiconductor heterostructure, based on GaAs.
Figure 2: Hysteretic electroluminescence polarization is a direct result of spin injection from the ferromagnetic (Ga,Mn)As layer.
Figure 3: The absence of hysteretic polarization.


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We thank I. Arata for technical support and D. T. Fuchs and J. M. Kikkawa for critical readings of the manuscript. Work at UCSB is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Science Foundation through the Center for Quantized Electronic Structures, and the Office of Naval Research. The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Ministry of Education in Japan support work at Tohoku University.

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Correspondence to D. D. Awschalom.

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Ohno, Y., Young, D., Beschoten, B. et al. Electrical spin injection in a ferromagnetic semiconductor heterostructure. Nature 402, 790–792 (1999) doi:10.1038/45509

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