Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered a way to expand the functions of semiconductors.
The team used light as a trigger to make tiny semiconductor crystals, called nanocrystals or quantum dots, display new magnetic functions at room temperature.
Silicon-based semiconductor chips incorporate tiny transistors that manipulate electrons and scientists are also working on ways to use electricity to manipulate the electrons' magnetism.
Professor Daniel Gamelin at the University of Washington commented: "This provides a completely new approach to microelectronics - if you can use spin instead of charge to process information and use photons to manipulate that process."
It is hoped that the research could pave the way to the production of materials that store information and perform logic functions at the same time, without the need for cooling apparatus.
Scientists at the university recently came up with a new plastic semiconductor that transmits both positive and negative charges.