Engineering team increases power efficiency for future computer processors

March 6, 2014
A picture of spin wave devices, showing magneto-electric cells used for voltage-controlled spin wave generation in the spin wave bus material (yellow stripe). The yellow stripe is about four micrometers in diameter.

(Phys.org) —Have you ever wondered why your laptop or smartphone feels warm when you're using it? That heat is a byproduct of the microprocessors in your device using electric current to power computer processing functions—and it is actually wasted energy.

Now, a team led by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has made major improvements in using an emerging class of magnetic materials called "multiferroics," and these advances could make future devices far more energy-efficient than current technologies.

With today's device microprocessors, passes through transistors, which are essentially very small electronic switches. Because current involves the movement of electrons, this process produces heat—which makes devices warm to the touch. These switches can also "leak" electrons, making it difficult to completely turn them off. And as chips continue to get smaller, with more circuits packed into smaller spaces, the amount of wasted heat grows.

The UCLA Engineering team used multiferroic to reduce the amount of power consumed by "logic devices," a type of circuit on a computer chip dedicated to performing functions such as calculations. A multiferroic can be switched on or off by applying alternating voltage—the difference in electrical potential. It then carries power through the material in a cascading wave through the spins of electrons, a process referred to as a spin wave bus.

A spin wave can be thought of as similar to an ocean wave, which keeps water molecules in essentially the same place while the energy is carried through the water, as opposed to an electric current, which can be envisioned as water flowing through a pipe, said principal investigator Kang L. Wang, UCLA's Raytheon Professor of Electrical Engineering and director of the Western Institute of Nanoelectronics (WIN).

"Spin waves open an opportunity to realize fundamentally new ways of computing while solving some of the key challenges faced by scaling of conventional semiconductor technology, potentially creating a new paradigm of spin-based electronics," Wang said.

The UCLA researchers were able to demonstrate that using this multiferroic material to generate could reduce wasted heat and therefore increase power efficiency for processing by up to 1,000 times. Their research is published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

"Electrical control of magnetism without involving charge currents is a fast-growing area of interest in magnetics research," said co-author Pedram Khalili, a UCLA assistant adjunct professor of . "It can have major implications for future information processing and data-storage devices, and our recent results are exciting in that context."

The researchers previously applied this technology in a similar way to computer memory.

Explore further: Engineers develop new magnetoelectric computer memory

More information: Paper: scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/apl/104/8/10.1063/1.4865916

Related Stories

Engineers develop new magnetoelectric computer memory

December 14, 2012

(Phys.org)—By using electric voltage instead of a flowing electric current, researchers from UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have made major improvements to an ultra-fast, high-capacity class ...

Researchers capture wasted heat, use it to power devices

April 23, 2013

(Phys.org) —Imagine how much you could save on your electricity bill if you could use the excess heat your computer generates to actually power the machine. Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and ...

Researchers take magnetic waves for a spin

January 29, 2014

Researchers at New York University have developed a method for creating and directing fast moving waves in magnetic fields that have the potential to enhance communication and information processing in computer chips and ...

Controlling magnetism with an electric field

February 18, 2014

There is a big effort in industry to produce electrical devices with more and faster memory and logic. Magnetic memory elements, such as in a hard drive, and in the future in what is called MRAM (magnetic random access memory), ...

Researchers demonstrate holographic memory device

February 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering and Russian Academy of Science have demonstrated a new type of holographic memory device that could provide unprecedented ...

Recommended for you

'Expansion entropy': A new litmus test for chaos?

July 28, 2015

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? This intriguing hypothetical scenario, commonly called "the butterfly effect," has come to embody the popular conception of a chaotic system, in which ...

Lobster-Eye imager detects soft X-ray emissions

July 28, 2015

Solar winds are known for powering dangerous space weather events near Earth, which, in turn, endangers space assets. So a large interdisciplinary group of researchers, led by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration ...

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TechnoCreed
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2014
A quick reading of the paper informs that, for the moment, they are only experimenting with the scalability of voltage driven logic circuits. There are no ways to know, from this article, how close we are from voltage driven computer chips, but it seems to be an unavoidable transition. If we want to continue with Moores law we have to improve the efficiency of information logic and information exchange.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.