The crystals themselves aren't new; they've been around for over a decade in computer chips, solar cells, and LEDs, according to CBC News. This particular application, though, is unprecedented:
The new work, reported today in the journal Nature Materials, describes a class of quantum dots that not only control electrons, but also have good magnetic properties allowing them to read the electron's spin.[Gizmodo via CBC News]
The research team claims it's the first successful synthesis of magnetic quantum dots above room temperature.
The breakthrough came after two years of research, when the team was able to get the right concentration of manganese combined with the germanium matrix of the quantum dot. Makes perfect sense! But however high-level the science, the end result is clear: a new breed of semiconductor could be on the way, bringing with it speed, efficiency, and storage increases bordering on the exponential. The only question now is how long?