Reviews of Modern Physics, vol. 76, issue 2 (2004) pp. 323-410
Spintronics, or spin electronics, involves the study of active control and manipulation of spin degrees of freedom in solid-state systems. This article reviews the current status of this subject, including both recent advances and well-established results. The primary focus is on the basic physical principles underlying the generation of carrier spin polarization, spin dynamics, and spin-polarized transport in semiconductors and metals. Spin transport differs from charge transport in that spin is a nonconserved quantity in solids due to spin-orbit and hyperfine coupling. The authors discuss in detail spin decoherence mechanisms in metals and semiconductors. Various theories of spin injection and spin-polarized transport are applied to hybrid structures relevant to spin-based devices and fundamental studies of materials properties. Experimental work is reviewed with the emphasis on projected applications, in which external electric and magnetic fields and illumination by light will be used to control spin and charge dynamics to create new functionalities not feasible or ineffective with conventional electronics.
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