Spintronics funding could speed future microprocessors

Researchers at the University of Bath have obtained funding to research how spintronics can be used to develop faster microprocessors.

University researchers in the U.K. will study how to make future microprocessors faster by replacing some of their internal connections with radio links.

Researchers at the University of Bath have received new funding to investigate how the emerging field of spintronics can be applied to in-chip communications, they announced Friday.

Electronic circuits control the flow of electrons from one place to another, but they only exploit one property of the electrons: their charge. Spintronics, or spin-based electronics, attempts to exploit another of the electrons' properties, their "spin." A quantum property, spin can be either "up" or "down". By measuring or modifying the spin, the property can be used to transmit, manipulate or store information.

Spintronic techniques are already used in some hard disk drives as a way to increase the density of stored information. Spin control also plays a role in the storage of information in MRAM magnetic memories, and in the manipulation of data in quantum computers, another emerging application of spintronics.

However, the researchers at Bath are interested in applying spintronics to the transmission of information, not its storage or manipulation.

The transistors used in today's microprocessors could run at speeds of up 100GHz if it weren't for the wires connecting them to one another, according to Alain Nogaret, a lecturer in the department of physics at Bath.

As processors run at higher and higher frequencies, wires present an obstacle to electrical signals, rather than an unobstructed path, so the signals quickly fade away, even over short distances: "The limit is not the transistors, but the losses in the electronic signals between transistors or clusters of transistors," Nogaret said.

"One way to cut these losses is to send these signals through microwaves," he said. In that way, the signal loss at 100GHz can be cut to just a couple of decibels per centimeter from 115 decibels per centimeter along a wire, he said.

Nogaret and his team hope to generate those microwaves by applying a theory he published in Physical Review Letters last year, entitled "Electrically induced Raman emission from planar spin oscillator," in which he predicted that radio signals are emitted when the spin of an electron trapped in a magnetic field resonates with that field.

It's almost the reverse of the way that magnetic resonance imaging machines work, he said.

To do that, the team will need to develop ways to reliably and precisely deposit magnetic layers on to semiconductor wafers, in order to manufacture the tiny transmitters.

They will also have to boost their power. "You need to have enough power to transmit signals reliably. Our devices have a power of 1 nanowatt [one billionth of a watt] but it needs to be 100 times that to overcome the [thermal] noise," he said. The group plans to build the transmitters in clusters of ten or so, benefitting from a phenomenon called superradiance to get the necessary 100-times boost.

Rather than have the transmitters broadcasting in all directions, potentially interfering with one another, Nogaret's group will etch microwave guides onto the wafers, carrying the signals directly to where they are needed.

Once the research is complete, Nogaret predicts that it will take another five to 10 years before the technology appears in production chips.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?