The research project “Spintronics technology platform in Rhineland Palatinate” (STeP) was awarded the
Rhineland-Palatinate Innovation Award 2015 in the category of “Cooperations”.
In the joint project by the Technical University in Kaiserslautern and the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (JGU), Sensitec GmbH was able to establish a technology platform with the participation of the site in Mainz in order to implement scientific knowledge from physics quickly and directly into industrial practice and make it accessible, primarily to local small and mediums sized businesses. The partners made significant progress in developing magnetic sensors and memory units. “These new energy-efficient sensors are increasingly required, especially in the field of applications relating to industry 4.0 or the Internet of Things,” was the report from the Rhineland Palatinate Innovation Award ceremony.
The prize is awarded every year by the Rhineland-Palatinate Minister for Economics, Climate Protection, Energy and Regional Planning, Eveline Lemke, in collaboration with the working groups of the Chambers of Industry and Trade and the Chamber of Crafts in the state. It goes to particularly innovative participants from Rhineland Palatinate as recognition of their work and their input for innovation in the economy of the state. The prize includes prize money of 8,000 euros.
Spintronics are a relatively new field of technology using not only electrical charge but also the "spin" of electrons. It is used, for example, in hard disk reading heads or in magnetic sensors. For example, Sensitec magnetic sensors are on the move on Mars in the NASA rover Curiosity. In the STeP research project, funded in the state of Rhineland Palatinate between February 2012 and February 2015, made it possible to significantly accelerate the transfer of ideas in the application thanks to the close cooperation between scientists and process engineers. The cooperation partners were able to solve physical problems in the industrial production of tunnel magneto resistance layer systems and in the integration of new Heusler layers into the existing silicon technology in record time. They also developed a new process for an integrated and therefore much faster quality test of magnet sensors.
Spintronics – technology with a future
“For us, the project is a real-life example of direct technology transfer from the university environment to business, something we could put into practice thanks to the funding by the ministry. With such close cooperation, all participants benefit from the knowledge and experience of the others,” explained Prof. Dr. Burkard Hillebrands who coordinated the project together with Dr. Britta Leven at the TU in Kaiserlautern. "Thanks to the support of the state, we succeeded in establishing a platform where the industry guides our ideas and research from the very beginning. We were able to use machines and measuring equipment that would otherwise not have been available to use,” said the university professor Dr. Mathias Kläui from the JGU, noted that continued cooperation is being considered. “Close cooperation with universities allows the time-to-market to be significantly reduced. The access to current knowledge at universities leads to further improvement of the development quality. In short: we get faster and better,”
Dr. Rolf Slatter, Management Board of Sensitec GmbH explained.
On the part of the two universities, the spintronic technology platform is closely connected with both of the OPTIMAS State Research Centers – State Research Centers for Optics and Material Sciences and the TU of Kasierlautern and CINEMA – Center for Innovative and Emerging Materials at the JGU Mainz which were both established as part of the research initiative of the State of Rhineland Palatinate. For the technology platform, network structures of the “Innovation platform for magnetic micro-systems INNOMAG” were also essential.