Why dope nanocrystals? In the end, to make your life easier

“Doping” is the term invented by nanoscientists to refer to the process of sticking a foreign substance (impurity) onto a nanocrystal and letting the crystal grow around it. Who cares? Well, apparently you “dope” a nanocrystal so you can make it do more things. Scientists have discovered a way to get doping to work better with certain metals like manganese:

C&EN: Latest News – Doped Nanocrystals: “the advance could allow properties of nanocrystals to be engineered for numerous applications ranging from solar cells to future ‘spintronic’ memory devices, in which information is carried by electron spin in addition to electrical charge.”

Yes, says the Navy, we will be able to use these doped crystals to build improvements in certain “reconfigurable logic” elements.

I was stumped by the terms so checked around. I guess if you’re not an engineer, you might not know that “reconfigurable logic devices” includes things like room-temperature superconductors and quantum computers–and that “by designing and making stacks of different materials — some with layers only two to three atoms thick — researchers can create devices that have novel properties. The spintronic GMR head, for example, has boosted the disk-drive industry.”

In other words, doping a nanocrystal for spintronics means you and I will have faster instant-on computers, digital cameras, cell phones, etc. I, for one, am psyched about speeding up the digital camera–how many absolute classic photos have you missed because of the delay on yours?