Cambridge Uni spins up green and beefy supercomputer project

Electron spin meets and marries super-conductivity

Supercomputer, image via shutterstock
Photo by Shutterstock

Cambridge University is leading a £2.7m project building energy efficient, high-performance supercomputers.

Called Project Superspin, the project will attempt to marry research into electron spin with research on super conductive materials.

The goal is to produce prototype logic and memory devices by 2021 for use in a generation of super computers that are capable of crunching vast amounts of data at a fraction of the energy cost of today’s super computers.

Superspin been awarded £2.7m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It will apply research on the ability to manipulate the spin of electrons, used to transmit and store data, with super conductive materials.

The big stumbling block to such a seemingly simple union is that devices that manipulate electron spin – called spintronic devices – use magnetic elements. It’s that magnetism which prevents superconductivity, thereby blocking energy efficiency. Superspin will attempt to break this deadlock and bring superconducting spintronics out of the lab and into the commercial world.

Cambridge University boffins discovered the existence of spin polarized supercurrents in 2010. This, along with research from others, makes it possible to power a spintronic device using a superconductor, the university said.

Work is already underway in a number of other countries to exploit superconducting and spintronics, but the University of Cambridge says its goal is to turn the UK into a centre for research in this emerging field.

The university will do so, it says, by working with other UK institutions: Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and Royal Holloway, a college within the University of London.

Superspin joint lead Jason Robinson, a Cambridge University lecturer in materials science, in a statement said the problem had been people working individually rather than together to develop an “overall understanding.”

“Our project will aim to establish a closer collaboration between people doing the basic science, while also developing demonstrator devices that can turn superconducting spintroncis into a reality,” Robinson said.


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