Spintronic memory gets a breakthrough

Researchers have sussed out how to use the spin of an electron to hold information

An international group of researchers has figured out how to encode information within the spin of an electron, a technique that may one day lead to smaller, faster memory for computers.

While the idea, called Spintronics, has been investigated for well over a decade, the researchers assert their work as a breakthrough, for a number of reasons.

First, the information stays encoded for 100 seconds, a longevity previously not achieved in spintronics prototypes. Also, their approach allows the data to be encoded on phosphorus atoms, allowing data to be easily read and updated by silicon-based equipment, the kind used by today's computers.

The researchers -- from Florida State University, the University of Utah, University College London and the University of Sydney -- have published their findings in the latest issue of Science.

Using equipment from Florida State University's National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the researchers were able to control the magnetic character, or spin, of electrons and their nuclei they orbit. They used powerful magnetic fields to direct the spin and cold temperatures to quell the motion of the atoms.

“Finding a system compatible with silicon, the main material used in the semiconductor industry, is particularly useful as it has the potential to be incorporated into existing technology,” said Dane McCamey, one of the project's investigators, in a statement. “We could then integrate spin-based information storage and processing devices onto a single chip.”

Despite this step forward, don't expect devices to come with a sticker that reads "Spintronics Inside" anytime soon. In order to minimize the movement of the atoms, the device had to be cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero. The surrounding magnetic fields had to be 200,000 times stronger than the Earth's own pull.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, the state of Florida, the Australian Research Council, Britain’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, a British funding agency.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags memorypopular scienceComponents

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?