A team of researchers from the University of Surrey and two other institutions have been awarded a grant of around £430,000 (about $704,000) to develop prototype ultrasmall-scale silicon structures for "spintronic" semiconductors. Jointly awarded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the National Science Foundation of China, the three-year grant exploits Chinese expertise in silicon fabrication nanotechnology and UK expertise in observing and controlling the way electrons spin within semiconductors. "Silicon-Based Nanospintronics" brings together experts from the London Centre for Nanotechnology at University College London, the Institute of Microelectronics at Peking University and the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute who have proposed a new way of manipulating electron spins with laser beams. The work could eventually lead to cheaper and more sophisticated processing technologies for computers. The spin of electrons is a fundamental quantum mechanical phenomenon which causes them to behave like small magnets. In normal electronic devices the spin is not relevant, but the increased energy dissipation and performance variability associated with smaller devices is spurring a search for "spintronic" methods and devices where information is carried by the spin itself. While silicon has not been the material of choice for spintronic research to date because of its very weak magnetic properties, there is interest because of its extremely high purity and the far cheaper and more sophisticated processing technologies available for silicon.