Tuesday, December 6th 2011
Racetrack memory, is a new type of magnetic memory that has magnetic domains "racing" along tiny nanometer sized wires, giving performance similar to conventional DRAM. Invented by IBM Fellow, Stuart Parkin, it has been in development since about 2004, with a working prototype having now been unveiled containing 256 "racetrack" cells, each containing a single wire. The technology works by sending very fast electric pulses down these wires, measured in nanoseconds, which transmit very fast moving magnetic domains which are then read by a magnetic head either as a one or a zero, depending on their direction. IBM said in a statement: "This breakthrough could lead to a new type of data-centric computing that allows massive amounts of stored information to be accessed in less than a billionth of a second."
IBM Researcher Stuart Parkin pioneered the development at the company’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, starting in about 2004. Parkin conceived of a device consisting of a city of skyscrapers—each one only hundreds of atoms wide—of magnetic material, with each floor of each skyscraper containing a single bit of data. The data is shot up and down the skyscrapers—almost like a supersonic elevator—by using special currents of electrons for which the spins of the electrons, a quantum mechanical property, are aligned in the same direction. By passing such “spin polarized” currents through the data, the magnetic data can be moved up and down the skyscrapers which are vertical racetracks. These currents are generated by a transistor connected to the bottom of each skyscraper. “In this way, each transistor can store not just one bit of data, as in all other solid state memory, but rather 100 bits,” Parkin said. “This means that one can have a solid state memory with the same low cost of a disk drive but with a performance 10 million times better!”Makes today's expensive "cutting edge", low capacity, limited lifetime and above all, way slower Flash-based SSD's seem so yesterday, doesn't it? One can imagine Windows booting up near-instantaneously with one of these.Sources: BBC, IBM
A personal storage device using racetrack memory could fit into a lapel pin and record every conversation its wearer has for years before filling up. In enterprises, massive storage could be dispersed, with terabytes of information built into every device, sensor, camera and doorknob.