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Physicists read “spins” in hydrogen nuclei and used the data to control current in a cheap, plastic LED – at room temperature and without strong magnetic fields. The study brings physics a step closer to practical "spintronic" devices: superfast computers, more compact data storage and plastic or organic LEDs, more efficient than those used today in display screens for cell phones, computers and televisions.

"We have shown we can use room-temperature, plastic electronic devices that allow us to see the orientation of the tiniest magnets in nature -- the spins in the smallest atomic nuclei," says physics professor Christoph Boehme, one of the study's principal authors. "This is a step that may lead to new ways to store information, produce better displays and make faster computers."

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