Researchers one step closer to 'bootless' computer
Lead scientist describes the technology as totally new concept that 'will essentially give memory some brains'
Computerworld - Physicists at the University of California, Riverside have made a breakthrough in developing a "spin computer," which would combine logic with nonvolatile memory, bypassing the need for computers to boot up.
The new transistor technology, which one lead scientist believes could become a reality in about five years, would reduce power consumption to the point where eventually computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices could remain on all the time.
The breakthrough came when scientists at UC Riverside successfully injected a spinning electron into a resistor material called graphene, which is essentially a very thin layer of graphite, just like you might find in a pencil. The graphene in this case is one atom thick.
The process is known as "tunneling spin injection." It involves laying down an electron in the graphene, which then represents a bit of data. By injecting multiple bits into the graphene, they can not only be stored in a nonvolatile state (without a need for electricity), but the data can be used for computations in the graphene itself.
If successful, the researchers will have created a chip that removes the I/O bottleneck created by the system bus between a computer's CPU and a mass storage device such as a hard drive or solid-state drive, also known as the von Neumann bottleneck.
One of the project's lead scientists, Roland Kawakami, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at UC Riverside, said the clock speeds of chips made using tunneling spin injection would be "thousands of times" faster than today's processors.
One of the major hurdles that remains involves finding a lower-power method to coax electrons into being flipped by a magnetic field, turning them into bits representing zeros or ones. Currently, the graphene spin technology requires more power than DRAM or SRAM to work, Kawakami said.
"If you can lower the energy needed, then you could lower the size of the supporting circuitry," Kawakami said. "What we're working on is a whole new concept. This will essentially give memory some brains."
The researchers also need to build out the circuitry. That will be the job of electrical engineers.
Kawakami's team has used a semiconductor laser to essentially free up electrons so they can be polarized and given a directional orientation, called "spin."
The electrons can either "spin up" or "spin down" and allow for more data storage than is possible with current electronics, according to the university. Once the electrons are polarized, they remain in place for the life of the chip, which in the case of graphene is practically an eternity.
"So it's the type of memory that can be very fast, and it can be very durable. You're moving atoms. There's not a large magnetic field," Kawakami said. "I'm one of those researchers that really cringes at the thought of saying this [new technology] can be useful. I think for us, maybe within five years we can get one device working."
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Shifting Gears: The Value of Customer-Driven Quality in Manufacturing In today's competitive manufacturing market, the customer must be the center of the quality universe. This paper details how manufacturers can improve customer...
- Aberdeen Group: Marketing Analytics for Manufacturing: Forging Customer Insights There are no recalls for poor marketing. Manufacturers need to get their customer intelligence and messaging right the first time. Learn how.
- Unlocking the Promise of Demand Sensing and Shaping through Big Data Analytics Many organizations have limited insight into big data. These limitations have significant opportunity costs and can have a negative effect on identifying and...
- The Brave New World of Customer-Centric Manufacturing The Unique Opportunity for Manufacturers to Better Understand their Consumers
- Top 4 Digital Signage Fails Join RMG Networks for a look at four of the most common reasons digital signage fails in corporate businesses. Learn about strategies to...
- Building Tomorrow's Infrastructure Listen to this podcast to discover how Crider Foods worked with PC Connection to update their IT infrastructure, while maintaining compliance and control. All Emerging Technologies White Papers | Webcasts