Surprise discovery in the search for energy efficient: The University of Nottingham.

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Today almost all information stored on hard disc drives or cloud servers is recorded in magnetic media, because it is non-volatile (i.e. it retains the information when power is switched off) and cheap. For portable devices such as mobile phones and tablets, other forms of non-magnetic memory are used because the technology based on magnetism is impractical and is not energy efficient. In an age of mass data storage and portable devices which collect and process information, the search is on to find smaller, faster, cheaper and more energy efficient ways, of both processing and storing increasing amounts of data.

In the course of their research into the use of magnetic domain walls (local regions of magnetic "charge" usually driven by magnetic fields) to increase our capacity for information storage and logical processing, physicists at the University of Nottingham have discovered a phenomenon which has allowed them to 'manipulate' the structure of a magnetic domain wall.

The research carried out by researchers in the Spintronics Group in the School of Physics and Astronomy, in collaboration with York University, has been published in the open access journal Scientific Reports (Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 7613 (2017) doi:10.1038/s41598-01 7-079449). It could provide a route to creating a new class of highly efficient, non-volatile information processing and storage technology.

Dr Andrew Rushforth, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "In the drive towards increasingly miniaturised, portable devices, the need to store and process information with low power consumption is becoming a critical issue. Concepts for information storage and logical processing based on magnetic domain walls have great potential for implementation in future information and communications technologies."

Magnetic media

The main benefit of using magnetism is the fact that the magnetic state remains stable when power is removed from the device, enabling non-volatile storage of information. By contrast, most processors and random access memory (RAM) chips store information using electrical charge which is fast, but dissipates when the device is powered down.

Magnetic random access memory (MRAM) is a promising form of non-volatile RAM based on magnetism which has recently found applications in some niche markets. In MRAM information is written using electrical current which generates heat and stray magnetic fields.

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