March 1, 2010
Greener Memory From Random Motion
Heat helps in low power data storage scheme
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 Mnzenberg 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 (physics.aps.org).
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.
Image Caption: This is a schematic of data storage in (left) conventional magnetic memory and (right) thermally assisted memory. Credit: Illustration: Alan Stonebraker, APS
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