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Volume 487 Issue 7406, 12 July 2012

Heat cycles provide almost all of the energy that a modern civilization consumes. The thermoelectric cycle, a latecomer compared with steam and gases, generates electrical power through the Seebeck effect, whereby an electric voltage is generated when a conductor is placed in a temperature gradient. The 2008 discovery of the spin Seebeck effect (go.nature.com/dlvhz2)  whereby a thermal gradient applied to a spin-polarized material leads to a spatially varying transverse spin current in an adjacent non-spin-polarized material — led to a new line of research in spintronics. In this issue of Nature, Jaworski et al. describe something similar but three orders of magnitude more powerful, 'giant spin Seebeck effect' in a material (indium antimonide, InSb) that is non-magnetic but that has strong spin–orbit coupling and phonon–electron drag. They propose a mechanism for this phenomenon that relies on spin polarization only, not on magnetic exchange. The results, say the authors, show that the spin Seebeck effect can be of a magnitude that may make spin-based thermal-energy converters a reality, and possibly competitive with existing technologies. Cover: IMAGE BY Scott Denison © Roberto C. Myers & Joseph P. Heremans.

Editorial

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Comment

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News & Views

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Article

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Letter

  • A giant spin Seebeck effect—three orders of magnitude greater than previously detected—has been observed in a non-magnetic material, InSb; the proposed mechanism relies only on phonon drag and spin–orbit interactions in a spin-polarized system, not on magnetic exchange.

    • C. M. Jaworski
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    • J. P. Heremans
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