New innovation enhances information storage in electronics

Dec 30, 2013

A team of researchers from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering has developed a new Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) technology that will boost information storage in electronic systems. The innovative technology will drastically increase storage space and enhance memory which will ensure that fresh data stays intact, even in the case of a power failure. The team has already filed a US provisional patent for their technology.

Led by Dr Yang Hyunsoo, the team developed a new device structure useful for the next generation MRAM chip which can potentially be applied to enhance the user experience in consumer electronics, including personal computers and mobile devices such as laptops and mobile phones. The new technology can also be applied in transportation, military and avionics systems, industrial motor control and robotics, industrial power and energy management as well as health care electronics.

Commenting on the benefits of their chip, Dr Yang said, "From the consumer's standpoint, we will no longer need to wait for our computers or laptops to boot up. Storage space will increase, and memory will be so enhanced that there is no need to regularly hit the 'save' button as fresh data will stay intact even in the case of a power failure. Devices and equipment can now have bigger memory with no loss for at least 20 years or probably more. Currently pursued schemes with a very thin magnetic layer can only retain information for about a year."

Dr Yang added, "With the heavy reliance on our mobile phones these days, we usually need to charge them daily. Using our new technology, we may only need to charge them on a weekly basis."

The innovation is expected to change the architecture of computers, making them much easier to manufacture as it does away with many facilities such as flash memory, effectively bringing down the cost. Major semiconductor players such as Samsung, Intel, Toshiba and IBM are intensifying research efforts in MRAM and the team's has received strong interest from the industry.

How the chip works

MRAM is emerging as the next big thing in data storage as it is non-volatile, which means that data can be retrieved even when the electronic equipment or device is not powered up. There is strong research interest in MRAM as it has the potential to provide high bit density and low power consumption.

The current methods of applying MRAM revolve round the which uses an 'in-plane', or horizontal, current-induced magnetisation. This method uses ultra-thin ferromagnetic structures which are challenging to implement due to their thickness of less than 1 nanometre. Their manufacturing reliability is low and tends to retain information for only less than a year.

The NUS team, in collaboration with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, was able to resolve this problem by incorporating magnetic multilayer structures as thick as 20 nanometre, providing an alternative film structure for transmission of electronic data and storage. This innovation allows for storage which can last for a minimum of 20 years. The findings were published online in Physical Review Letters on 9 December.

In the next phase of their research, the team plans to apply the invented structure in memory cells. They are looking for industry partners for collaborations on developing a spin-orbit torque-based MRAM.

Explore further: X-ray detector on plastic delivers medical imaging performance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Buffalo shows SSDs with MRAM at Japan show

May 15, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Japan-based storage experts, Buffalo, has introduced a new line of solid state drives (SSDs) that use MRAM cache (instead of standard SDRAM). The company’s new line of solid state drives ...

Recommended for you

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

7 hours ago

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

7 hours ago

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Four questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

7 hours ago

Travelers at Asian airports have asked questions about the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Here are some of them, followed by answers.

Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct

20 hours ago

The Google Android platform grabbed the majority of mobile phones in the US market in early 2014, as consumers all but abandoned non-smartphone handsets, a survey showed Friday.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dirk_bruere
5 / 5 (3) Dec 30, 2013
I have been reading about such claims for the past 20 years.
grondilu
not rated yet Dec 30, 2013
I have been reading about such claims for the past 20 years.


Yeah, unfortunately MRAM has become quite a vaporware.

More news stories

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...