Thursday, August 14th 2008

Spin Flip Trick Points to Fastest RAM Yet

Here's a good story catch found by one of our readers and sent to me. Because of the nature of this post I won't try to rewrite it, otherwise I might make a mistake explaining the technical terms used. The text below is borrowed from the original source of the news - NewScientistTech.

Do you wish your computer was faster? Engineers and physicists from Germany have demonstrated the quickest prototype yet of an advanced form of RAM tipped by hardware manufacturers to be the future of computing. The device is so fast it brushes against a fundamental speed-limit for the process. Magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) is a faster and more energy efficient version of the RAM used in computers today, and hardware companies think it will in a few years dominate the market.

Its speed and low power will in particular boost mobile computing.
Whereas conventional RAM stores a digital 1 or 0 as the level of charge in the capacitor, MRAM stores it by changing the north-south direction of a tiny magnet's magnetic field. Each variable magnet is positioned next to one with a fixed field. Reading a stored value involves running a current through the pair to discover the direction of the variable magnet's field.

Spin flips
The MRAM that IBM and most other manufacturers are betting on uses the spins of electrons to flip the magnetic fields, called spin-torque MRAM.

Now researchers in Germany have built a spin-torque system that is dramatically faster than any other. Santiago Serrano-Guisan and Hans Schumacher of the Physical-Technical Federal Laboratory of Germany worked with University of Bielefeld and Singulus Nano-Deposition Technologies researchers to build it from tiny pillars 165 nanometres tall.

The top end of each pillar acts as a variable magnet that stores data, whereas the bottom ends are fixed magnets. A current passing through a pillar from bottom to top has the spin of its electrons lined up by the permanent-magnet region.

When those electrons reach the pillars' other end, they flip the variable magnet region's field to match. The field can be flipped back by reversing the current.

Usually when the field is flipped it takes some time to settle into its new orientation. The north-south axis draws a few circles in the air before settling into place.

Wobble control
But theoretical work says it needs to draw only one circle before finding its new position, making the process faster. The German team achieved that, developing a way to observe and control the field’s wobble during and after the flip.

By adjusting the duration and strength of the electrical pulse that flips the field, only a single "wobble" is allowed to take place, matching the theoretical limit.

The result is a device many times faster than any before. "Present MRAM are programmed by pulses of about 10 nanoseconds duration," said Serrano-Guisan. "So we are ten times faster." The very best conventional RAM needs around 30 nanoseconds for an equivalent operation.

Robert Buhrman, an expert in nanomagnetics at Cornell University, New York, is impressed but notes that a full MRAM device has not yet been made.

The current used by the German device is at present too electrically dense to be supplied by the transistors used in MRAM circuits. "The next thing that needs to be done is to get the switching currents down to a scale that is compatible with the [standard] CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) transistor," said Buhrman.Source: NewScientistTech
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7 Comments on Spin Flip Trick Points to Fastest RAM Yet

#1
Darkrealms
Now that sounds cool. Guess I can't use my magnets on my case anymore, lol.
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#2
candle_86
you shouldnt have magnets on your case in the first place
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#3
chron
:eek: does this mean we can play crysis good nao?
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#4
WarEagleAU
Bird of Prey
with CRTs magnets were a problem, but with todays stuff, it shouldnt harm it at all.

If this truly is the future, I cannot wait!
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#5
Darkrealms
I'm sorry I was being harassing.
by: candle_86
you shouldnt have magnets on your case in the first place
by: WarEagleAU
with CRTs magnets were a problem, but with todays stuff, it shouldnt harm it at all.

If this truly is the future, I cannot wait!
Besides on my case it wouldn't matter (old Alienware Full ATX case)
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#6
Sent1nel
You should not have magnets near your computer due to potential damage to hard drives and altering electrical current through non shielded circuits.
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#7
Charisma
I doubt magnets are much of a concern anymore. I happen to have this crazy strong magnet around toally about an inch and a half deep with a 6 inch diameter at around 5 pounds. I might try putting it on an HD I have lying around. I have a feeling the drives are well shielded in this age, perhaps Ill find out :)

Always nice to hear technological progress, but not very excisting as none of the rather unconventional RAM technologies have panned out that Ive seen. Mass storage is what really needs the work anyway.
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