Greener memory from random motion

Mar 01, 2010
This is a schematic of data storage in (left) converntional magnetic memory and (right) thermally assisted memory. Credit: Illustration: Alan Stonebraker, APS

Random thermal fluctuations in magnetic memory can be harnessed to reduce the energy required to store information, according to an experiment reported in the current issue of Physical Review Letters. The development could lead to computer memory that operates at significantly lower power than conventional devices. Markus Münzenberg of Universität Göttingen and Jagadeesh Moodera of MIT describe the potential route to greener magnetic memory in a Viewpoint in the latest issue of APS Physics.

Heat is usually a problem when it comes to storing digital data. At the microscopic level, the molecules and atoms of anything at a temperature above absolute zero are in constant motion. Because magnetic memory relies on controlling and measuring the orientation of tiny magnetic particles, the jostling that comes about as components warm up can potentially scramble data.

Thermal issues are a major concern as researchers build increasingly dense and fast magnetic memory. But heat isn't entirely bad, according to a collaboration of Italian and American physicists that has shown that random thermal motions can be helpful for writing magnetic data. Essentially, they found that applying an electrical current that should be too modest to record data can still be effective for writing information because thermal motion gives an added boost to help orient magnetic particles.

The researchers confirmed the effect by measuring magnetic fluctuations as the particles that make up memory were being aligned. Thermal motions are random, which in turn causes random variations in the amount of time it takes for magnetic particles to line up. The fact that alignment times ranged from one to a hundred billionths of a second made it clear that random, temperature-dependent motion must be at work in helping to flip the particles.

The experimental confirmation of the thermal effects on magnetic memory points the way to new, thermally-assisted data writing schemes. The advances could reduce the power required to store information, potentially helping to ensure that future PCs are increasingly green machines.

Explore further: Thinner capsules yield faster implosions

More information: Single-Shot Time-Domain Studies of Spin-Torque-Driven Switching in Magnetic Tunnel Junctions, Y.-T. Cui, G. Finocchio, C. Wang, J. A. Katine, R. A. Buhrman, and D. C. Ralph, Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 097201 (2010) - Published March 01, 2010. Download PDF (free)

Related Stories

Scientists Propose Thermal Memory to Store Data

Jan 07, 2009

Most computers today store memory electronically, by maintaining a certain voltage. In contrast, a new kind of memory that stores data thermally, by maintaining temperature, is being investigated by researchers Lei Wang of ...

Electric control of aligned spins improves computer memory

Jan 19, 2010

Researchers from Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB, Germany) and the French research facility CNRS, south of Paris, are using electric fields to manipulate the property of electrons known as "spin" to store data permanently. ...

Noisy nature of atoms

Sep 09, 2004

University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory have demonstrated a way to use the random fluctuations that exist naturally in all magnetic systems to perform magnetic resonance studies without ...

Creating Denser Magnetic Memory

Jul 07, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the issues afflicting magnetic memory is the fact that it is difficult to store information for as long as 10 years. In order to overcome this problem, scientists and engineers have been looking for ...

Recommended for you

Thinner capsules yield faster implosions

1 hour ago

In National Ignition Facility (NIF) inertial confinement fusion (ICF) experiments, the fusion fuel implodes at a high speed in reaction to the rapid ablation, or blow-off, of the outer layers of the target ...

Direct visualization of magnetoelectric domains

4 hours ago

A novel microscopy technique called magnetoelectric force microscopy (MeFM) was developed to detect the local cross-coupling between magnetic and electric dipoles. Combined experimental observation and theoretical ...

Upside down and inside out

5 hours ago

Researchers have captured the first 3D video of a living algal embryo turning itself inside out, from a sphere to a mushroom shape and back again. The results could help unravel the mechanical processes at ...

Heat makes electrons spin in magnetic superconductors

Apr 24, 2015

Physicists have shown how heat can be exploited for controlling magnetic properties of matter. The finding helps in the development of more efficient mass memories. The result was published yesterday in Physical Review Le ...

User comments : 0

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.