Samsung has applied for a US patent to protect the use of graphene antidots in spin valves. Spin valves are magnetic components used in magnetic sensors, hard disk read heads, and magnetic RAM.
Graphene antidots, or nanopores, are nothing new: they have been discussed in theoretical and experimental papers for years. It has long been known from theory that few-nanometer sized hexagonal holes in graphene should act like tiny magnets, a prediction that has only recently been confirmed experimentally. Samsung takes it a step further with this patent, by envisioning practical computing devices based on the phenomenon.
The device that Samsung invents would consist of three areas of graphene. The areas to the left and the right would contain nanopores and be ferromagnetic. The area in the middle would be a plain sheet of graphene, acting as a conductor. A common spin valve exhibits a difference in electrical resistance depending on the polarity of the magnetisation in the two magnetic layers. The same principle would apply to the graphene spin valve.
Patent application number 20120308846 shows Samsung expanding to new frontiers, entering the turf traditionally held by Sandisk. Sandisk has a track record of patenting graphene-based memory devices. This is a very sharp and visionary move by Samsung, albeit one based only on simulations. The technology may not quite be there yet, however Samsung wants to make sure that once it is, they’re the ones who own it.