March 12, 2010
Scientists win $1 million for physics research
Three Stanford researchers have won a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to continue their theoretical and experimental work on the quantum spin Hall system, a newly discovered type of material inside which the laws of electricity and magnetism are dramatically altered.
The researchers, who received the grant in December, are David Goldhaber-Gordon, associate professor of physics; Shoucheng Zhang, professor of physics; and Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.
The Stanford team will test a new class of materials in an attempt to achieve the quantum spin Hall system effect without external magnetic fields and at room temperature, instead of the cryogenic temperatures that the process now requires.
When electrons flow through metals or semiconductors, they dissipate energy as heat, causing devices to draw extra power and limiting computer processor speed. Losing energy as heat is the greatest roadblock to building more powerful microchips.
The quantum spin Hall system is a recent discovery that uses electron spin instead of charge to transport electrons without losing heat.
Achieving the spin Hall effect at room temperatures could open the door to new computing devices that do not dissipate heat.
Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of Superior Oil Co. The foundations grant-making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering. The foundation also maintains a program to support undergraduate science and humanities education and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support in the areas of healthcare, civic and community services, education and the arts, with a special emphasis on children.