Iron ore leads to the discovery of the fastest electrical switch ever made

Posted on August 08, 2013 by Minerals Make Life

Mined minerals are the key to innovation. They are integral components of next-generation technologies and scientific discovery. Need proof? Look no further than magnetite, the naturally magnetic by-product of iron ore. According to a paper published in the journal Nature Materials, researchers discovered electrical properties consistent with silicon. Quartz recently reported:

“The ability to act as a switch that is either ’on’ (conducting) or ’off’ (non-conducting) is the basis for a transistor, which is the building block of any electronic circuit…Researchers showed that magnetite’s on-off electrical switch could be flipped in one-trillionth of a second—thousands of times faster than in transistors used currently. In theory, a computer made with magnetite chips instead of silicon would be that much faster than the machines we use today.”

Almost as exciting as the discovery of the fastest electrical switch ever made is the process scientists used to observe it. Dr. Hermann Durr, the chief investigator of the experiment said, “We understand the process so now it’s about optimizing the materials.”

In addition to scientific discoveries like this, minerals are also extremely important to existing advanced technologies. For example, a single wind turbine can contain 335 tons of steel, 4.7 tons of copper, 3 tons of aluminum and 700-plus pounds of rare earth minerals, as well as zinc, molybdenum and concrete.

Minerals are the future right below our feet  and with the recent American manufacturing comeback, it’s important—now more than ever—to make sure that the United States has a coherent national minerals policy to attract investors to the industry.

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