Electrons in materials have a property known as 'spin," which is responsible for a variety of properties, the most well-known of which is magnetism. Permanent magnets, like the ones used for refrigerator doors, have all the spins in their electrons aligned in the same direction. Scientists refer to this behavior as ferromagnetism, and the research field of trying to manipulate spin as spintronics.
Down in the quantum world, spins can arrange in more exotic ways, giving rise to frustrated states and entangled magnets. Interestingly, a property similar to spin, known as "the valley," appears in graphene materials. This unique feature has given rise to the field of valleytronics, which aims to exploit the valley property for emergent physics and information processing, very much like spintronics relies on pure spin physics.
"Valleytronics would potentially allow encoding information in the quantum valley degree of freedom, similar to how electronics do it with charge and spintronics with the spin." Explains Professor Jose Lado, from Aalto's Department of applied physics, and one of the authors of the work. "What's more, valleytronic devices would offer a dramatic increase in the processing speeds in comparison with electronics, and with much higher stability towards magnetic field noise in comparison with spintronic devices."
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