A New Way To Get Electricity From Magnetism

'Inverse spin Hall effect' works in several organic semiconductors

Apr 18, 2016 – By showing that a phenomenon dubbed the “inverse spin Hall effect” works in several organic semiconductors – including carbon-60 buckyballs – University of Utah physicists changed magnetic “spin current” into electric current. The efficiency of this new power conversion method isn’t yet known, but it might find use in future electronic devices including batteries, solar cells and computers.

University of Utah physicists Z. Valy Vardeny and Christoph Boehme published a new study in Nature Materials demonstrating that a range of organic semiconductors can be used to convert a so-called magnetic spin current into electric current. They don’t yet know the efficiency of this power-conversion method, but say it has possible future uses in future solar cells, batteries and electronic devices like computers and cell phones. Photo credit: Lee J. Siegel, University of Utah

“This paper is the first to demonstrate the inverse spin Hall effect in a range of organic semiconductors with unprecedented sensitivity,” although a 2013 study by other researchers demonstrated it with less sensitivity in one such material, says Christoph Boehme, a senior author of the study published April 18 in the journal Nature Materials.

“The inverse spin Hall effect is a remarkable phenomenon that turns so-called spin current into an electric current. The effect is so odd that nobody really knows what this will be used for eventually, but many technical applications are conceivable, including very odd new power-conversion schemes,” says Boehme, a physics professor.

His fellow senior author, distinguished professor Z. Valy Vardeny, says that by using pulses of microwaves, the inverse spin Hall effect and organic semiconductors to convert spin current into electricity, this new electromotive force generates electrical current in a way different than existing sources.

Coal, gas, hydroelectric, wind and nuclear plants all use dynamos to convert mechanical force into magnetic-field changes and then electricity. Chemical reactions power modern batteries and solar cells convert light to electrical current. Converting spin current into electrical current is another method.

Scientists already are developing such devices, such as a thermoelectric generator, using traditional inorganic semiconductors. Vardeny says organic semiconductors are promising because they are cheap, easily processed and environmentally friendly. He notes that both organic solar cells and organic LED (light-emitting diode) TV displays were developed even though silicon solar cells and nonorganic LEDs were widely used.

Vardeny and Boehme stressed that the efficiency at which organic semiconductors convert spin current to electric current remains unknown, so it is too early to predict the extent to which it might one day be used for new power conversion techniques in batteries, solar cells, computers, phones and other consumer electronics.

“I want to invoke a degree of caution,” Boehme says. “This is a power conversion effect that is new and mostly unstudied.”

Boehme notes that the experiments in the new study converted more spin current to electrical current than in the 2013 study, but Vardeny cautioned the effect still “would have to be scaled up many times to produce voltages equivalent to household batteries.”

The new study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Utah-NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Study co-authors with Vardeny and Boehme were these University of Utah physicists: research assistant professors Dali Sun and Hans Malissa, postdoctoral researchers Kipp van Schooten and Chuang Zhang, and graduate students Marzieh Kavand and Matthew Groesbeck.

 Read Full Press Release Here.


Students Recognized for Stellar Research


Congratulations to Parker Holzer, Julie Imig, and Ethan Lake, all undergraduate students in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, whom were recognized at the 2016 Undergraduate Research Symposium for their excellent research work.

   Parker Holzer, for his poster presentation at Research on Capitol Hill, "Understanding Planet Harboring Stars in the Open Cluster M67".

   Julie Imig, for her poster presentation at Research on Capitol Hill, "Chemical Composition of Ultra-Faint Dwarf Galaxy Bootes I", plus the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for the Honors College

   Ethan Lake: Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for the College of Science

From the Office of Undergraduate Research:

"The Office of Undergraduate Research hosted its 13th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on Tuesday April 12, 2016 in the Olpin Union Building. The Undergraduate Research Symposium provides an opportunity for students to present their work in a scholarly setting to students, faculty and other members of the University of Utah community. Undergraduate students from all disciplines were invited to present their research and creative work."

Click here to learn more about the Undergraduate Research Symposium.


Commencement & Convocation Information 2016

From the Office of the Registrar


University Commencement ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 6:30pm in the Jon M Huntsman Center (Map). Candidates for graduation in the summer 2015, fall 2015, spring 2016, or summer 2016 terms may attend.

Commencement is open to the public and free to attend. No tickets or RSVP required. This year's commencement speaker is work-life thought leader, Anne-Marie Slaughter. The University of Utah Board of Trustees announced four individuals selected to receive honorary doctorate degrees at commencement. For more information, please visit the Commencement Ceremony page. Those who are unable to attend commencement will be able to watch the live stream or posted video via the utah.edu website. For more information, please visit the Commencement Ceremony page."

For those of you attending or participating in graduation ceremonies this spring, here's some important information.


(this is the one for the entire campus where the VIPs speak)
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Huntsman Center (Map)

  • 5:00 pm - Graduates assemble in the Parking Terrace west of the Huntsman Center dressed in cap and gown
  • 5:30 pm - Guests should be seated
  • 5:45 pm - Procession begins
  • 6:30 pm - Commencement ceremony begins


(this is the one where your name is called and you walk across the stage)
College of Science (Click here for other colleges' date, time and location)
Friday, May 6, 2016
Kingsbury Hall (Map) with overflow seating in JFB 101 and JFB 103 (Map)
More info

  • 7:15 am - Graduates assemble on the west side of Kingsbury Hall (see the link above for additional details)
  • 7:45 am - Guests should be seated -
    (saving seats is not allowed - tell your family and friends they all need to arrive at the same time - once Kingsbury is full, guests will be directed to JFB for overflow seating and may view it on closed circuit projected onto the large screens in the lecture halls)
  • 8:00 am - Convocation ceremony begins
  • 9:30 am - College of Science Reception on Presidents Circle


Convocation will also be streamed live online so forward these links to family and friends who want to view it, but can't attend:
On-demand streaming of the College of Science Convocation will be available here.
The live stream link will be available here.


Campus parking lots may be used at no charge during commencement and convocation ceremonies. Please see the commencement parking map for parking locations as well as shuttle and TRAX stops. Additionally, since campus parking is limited, we encourage the use of UTA TRAX on these days. The use of TRAX while on campus is free both days, but fare is still required for any off campus travel.

Shuttle Services

As campus parking is limited, graduates and their guests are encouraged to use the free campus shuttle service to travel between commencement events. Shuttles run throughout campus and are scheduled every 10 minutes. Track the current location of any campus shuttle using the Live Shuttle Tracker.

Accessible Parking

For a map to all accessible parking options on campus, visit the campus map and select the "Accessible" option from the Map Features drop-down menu.

Construction Alerts

For a map with notifications regarding all parking lots effected by campus construction, view the campus map and select the "Construction" option from the Map Features drop-down menu.

Commuter Services

For more information about transportation and parking options, visit the Commuter Services website.

To learn more, please visit the Commencement Ceremony Parking & Transportation page.


Frontiers of Science with Steven C. Wofsy

Thursday, April 7, 2016 @ 6:00 p.m. - Frontiers of Science with Steven C. Wofsy! "Greenhouse Gases: Current Trends and Implications" in room 220 of the Aline Wilmot Skaggs Building (ASB) on the U of U Campus!.


with Dr. Steven C. Wofsy,
Abbott Lawrence Rotch Professor of Atmospheric and Environmental Chemistry at Harvard University

Greenhouse Gases: Current Trends and Implications

Date & Time: Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 6:00pm

Location: 220 Aline Skaggs Building at the University of Utah
View Map

Concentrations of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have increased dramatically, starting in the 18th century, representing powerful drivers of global change and climate warming. In order assess future changes and design mitigation strategies, the emissions of these gases must be quantified, and the underlying biological, chemical, physical, and human processes must be understood. The relevant spatial scales span ecosystems, landscapes, regions, and continents, with temporal scales from seasonal to decadal, all very difficult to measure directly. This talk traces historical changes in atmospheric composition, showing the dramatic trends starting in the 1950s and continuing today. We then focus on the Arctic, a region with strong sensitivity to warming climate and vast stores of frozen or waterlogged organic carbon. We show recent results from the Carbon in the Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) and other regional measurements that challenge conventional ideas about climate-carbon feedbacks in this region, emphasizing the key roles of processes that occur out of sight--under the surface, after the growing season. We conclude with a comparison between emissions of CH4 and CO2 due to human activities versus the natural world, showing the astonishing transition of the human component from modest perturbation to overwhelming dominance, in recent human memory.

Frontiers of Science is free and open to the public. Please arrive early, as seating and parking will be limited. Click here to learn more about the Frontiers of Science lecture series.


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