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A $10 million Defense Department project to develop new materials in the field of "spintronics" will be led by the University at Buffalo, UB officials announced Monday.

Seven other major institutions in the United States, as well as the University of Wurzburg in Germany, also will take part in the five-year consortium project to be funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

"We're all excited here," UB physics professor Hong Luo said of the government funding.

He said spintronics -- the manipulation of electronic spin in semiconductor devices -- can be used to improve existing technologies and create new ones.

"Spins, it so happens, behave like little magnets that can be switched," Luo said.

"We are one of the best groups in the country to make these switches, which is why we were awarded the project. We will also be making some prototype electronic devices, and some new-type lasers."

Seven interdisciplinary teams at the nine institutions involved in the overall project will be directed and coordinated by scientists from UB's Center for Advanced Photonic and Electronic Materials.

UB physics professor Bruce D. McCombe will be principal investigator.

McCombe, Luo and Athos Petrou of the physics department in UB's College of Arts and Sciences, have been involved for some time in research on properties of spins in magnetic semiconductors, efforts that have put UB at the forefront of the spintronics field.

Participants in the Defense Department project, besides UB and the University of Wurzburg, are the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, the University of Texas at Austin, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, North Carolina State University, Vanderbilt University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

"The funding to the consortium represents roughly 10 percent of the presently projected funding in this program," McCombe said.

"Other agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, have recently begun to put substantial amounts of research funding into this new area."

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