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Broken mirror symmetry boosts current conversion in a superconductor
The intrinsic structure of a material called a chiral superconductor enhances the separation of charge carriers, transforming an electric current in a way that could change the future of memory storage at low temperatures.
Digital information is usually encoded by controlling the flow of charge carriers, such as electrons, through materials. But a special type of electronics, called spintronics, uses electrons’ spin — their intrinsic angular momentum — as well as their charge. In spintronics, a charge current is used to generate a spin current through a process known as charge-to-spin conversion, which usually involves an interaction that arises from an electron’s spin and its orbital motion1,2. This ‘spin–orbit interaction’ deflects an injected electron depending on the orientation of its spin, resulting in a spin-dependent voltage that is perpendicular to the flow of injected charges. In a paper in Nature, Nakajima et al.3 report that, in a material known as a chiral superconductor, this voltage is 1,000 times larger than expected, owing to the material’s intrinsic spin-selectivity mechanism, which enhances the effect of the spin–orbit interaction.