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Posted by John Keller

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington reportedly have been able to generate and control a new kind of electrical current -- spin current, as opposed to charge current -- which holds the potential to increase performance, decrease power consumption, and improve heat dissipation in electronics.

I first saw this story on Slashdot, and it sounds pretty interesting. Talk to any electronics engineer, and the discussion inevitably moves to improving performance, using less electricity, and dumping excess heat. These represent the holy grail of electronics development. Now maybe the Navy is getting us closer to these goals.

This research area is called spintronics, which seeks to build electronics that rely on electron spin rather than electron charge to carry information. The NRL scientists were able to generate, modulate, and electrically detect a pure spin current in silicon, the most common semiconductor material for electronics.

It's not clear how far away this technology might be from practical use. If NRL is doing it, it's still pretty much in the area of sandboxy pure research, but NRL's work certainly is encouraging to military and aerospace electronics who are trying to design electronics for tiny spaces aboard a growing variety of unmanned vehicles, wearable computers, portable sensors, and other equipment.

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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.

John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.