The tiny light in the center is the Spintronic LED.
OLEDs (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) can be found in almost all of today’s electronic products, such as TVs, smartphones and super-bright flashlights. There are essentially two kinds of OLEDs with one using small molecules, such as using ions which creates an LEC (Light-emitting Electro-mechanical Cell) typically used in displays, and the other using thin-film transistor backplanes such as AMOLED/PMOLED for HD displays. While both have their advantages and disadvantages, they are considerably brighter over their LED counterparts. However, physicists from the University of Utah have added a 3rd class of OLED to the list with their design of what they call a ‘spintronic LED’. Created by Professor Z. Valy Vardeny (of the University of Utah), research assistant Tho D. Nguyen and physicist Eitan Ehrenfreund of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the new type of OLED is based off of spintronics (or magnetoelectronics), which takes advantage of the intrinsic spin of the electrons in a magnetic moment. This means that the OLED design takes advantage of the electron spin manipulated in a magnetic field which is then able to retain information. An example of spintronic implementation can be found in some semiconductor devices such as SSD’s (Solid State Drives) and the emerging Racetrack memory technology.
The teams new semiconductor-based Spintronic LED stores information in the electrons spin as well as the electrical charges, but they also uses an ‘organic spin-valve’ to emit light which essentially turns their design into an information-based organic spin LED. The spin-valve, also designed by Vardeny, is essentially an electrical switch that is comprised of two magnetic metals with an organic semiconductor sandwiched in the middle. The electrons in the spin-valve align up or down based on the external magnetic field which can then be translated to one’s or zero’s based on those alignments. Previous developments in the team’s spin-valve resulted in electrical current regulation only, but after 8 years of progress they were able to adapt it to emit light. As it stands right now, the spintronic LED can only operate at a temperature of 280 Fahrenheit and emits only the color orange, but they hope to develop it further to be able to operate at higher temperatures, emit blue, red and eventually white within the next two years. They also state that the spintronic LED’s will be more eco-friendly, cheaper to make and brighter than today’s OLEDs, which could outperform and replace all of our existing OLED technology.