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."
- Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms Forrester states that businesses today struggle to understand and use the tools necessary to create and manage unified, multichannel digital customer experiences across...
- The Growing Demand for Rich Media This white paper discusses how IBM Customer Experience Suite Rich Media Edition can automate rich media workflows, from collaborating with creative agencies and...
- Three Best Practices to Help Enterprises Overcome BYOD Challenges The new Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) environment presents challenges for IT managers and business leaders. This paper discusses how IT managers can address those challenges,...
- Intelligent Imaging for Improved Banking Performance and Profitability A new generation of "Intelligent Imaging" solutions has emerged that is helping banks remove the burden of paper in legacy processes, like loan...
- Keep Servers Up and Running and Attackers in the Dark An SSL/TLS handshake requires at least 10 times more processing power on a server than on the client. SSL renegotiation attacks can readily...
- On Demand: Mastering the Art of Mobile Content Management Mobile device usage in the enterprise has skyrocketed, and it continues to escalate. IT must answer to users who demand access to their... All Emerging Technologies White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!