Strain and spin may enable ultra-low-energy computing

Aug 15, 2011

By combining two frontier technologies, spintronics and straintronics, a team of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University has devised perhaps the world's most miserly integrated circuit.

Their proposed design runs on so little energy that batteries are not even necessary; it could run merely by tapping the ambient energy from the environment. Rather than the traditional charge-based electronic switches that encode the basic 0s and 1s of computer lingo, spintronics harnesses the natural spin – either up or down – of electrons to store bits of data.

Spin one way and you get a 0; switch the the other way – typically by applying a magnetic field or by a spin-polarized current pulse – and you get a 1. During switching, uses considerably less energy than charge-based electronics. However, when ramped up to usable processing speeds, much of that energy savings is lost in the mechanism through which the energy from the outside world is transferred to the magnet.

The solution, as proposed in the AIP's journal Applied Physics Letters, is to use a special class of composite structure called multiferroics. These composite structures consist of a layer of piezoelectric material with intimate contact to a magnetostrictive nanomagnet (one that changes shape in response to strain). When a tiny voltage is applied across the structure, it generates strain in the piezoelectric layer, which is then transferred to the magnetostrictive layer.

This strain rotates the direction of magnetism, achieving the flip. With the proper choice of materials, the energy dissipated can be as low as 0.4 attojoules, or about a billionth of a billionth of a joule. This proposed design would create an extremely low-power, yet high-density, non-volatile magnetic logic and memory system.

The processors would be well suited for implantable medical devices and could run on energy harvested from the patient's body motion. They also could be incorporated into buoy-mounted computers that would harvest from sea waves, among other intriguing possibilities.

Explore further: Neutron tomography technique reveals phase fractions of crystalline materials in 3-dimensions

More information: "Hybrid spintronics and straintronics: A magnetic technology for ultra-low-energy computing signal processing" is published in Applied Physics Letters.

Provided by American Institute of Physics

5 /5 (12 votes)

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poof
3 / 5 (2) Aug 15, 2011
Hook this to a fleshlight and modify the atx design to fit and we got a self powered computer.
Techno1
not rated yet Aug 15, 2011
With the proper choice of materials, the energy dissipated can be as low as 0.4 attojoules, or about a billionth of a billionth of a joule


That is just nuts. I think the vibration of air molecules, just from normal ambient temperature, or the waste heat coming from your monitor, LCD, speakers, etc, could easily produce enough to run a computer with that low of energy consumption.

This would mean like...not even having an electric cord on a PC, except for the monitor, or not having a power supply at all for hand held devices, or maybe it just powers the speakers and monitor, and the processor would just run on the energy from the heat waste through termoelectrics or piezoelectrics as stated.

Isn't as much as 50% of cloud computings companies expenses energy and cooling costs?

If you had this kind of technology, their profit margins would be so high they wouldn't even be able to spend the money. they could cut prices in half and still make a sizeable profit.
Code_Warrior
1 / 5 (1) Aug 16, 2011
Nice theory. If you build it they will come...

In the meantime there is that major sunflower origin controversy that has been definitively solved according to one of the other articles. There's some serious implications there... At least I think there are...
Techno1
1 / 5 (1) Aug 16, 2011
Nice theory. If you build it they will come...

In the meantime there is that major sunflower origin controversy that has been definitively solved according to one of the other articles. There's some serious implications there... At least I think there are...


Yeah, unfortunately, some people, for God only knows what reason, think it's more important to dig up fossils or argue over the exact geographical origin of a plant, than to actually work on solving real problems.

Who gives a dman why a dinosaur died anyway? They can't even test it's DNA to learn anything useful. The whole damn field of research is a waste of time and money, often funded by governments or universities,driving up the cost of education or other useful things. That money could be better spent developing new technologies.

You know, because I really don't care where a sunflower comes from, nor do I care about dinosaurs and other allegedly 50 millions years old crap.
poof
3 / 5 (2) Aug 17, 2011
If they can bring the dinosaurs back it would solve our overpopulation problem.