Researchers propose new designs that rely on an electron's spin, rather than a circuit's electrical charge, to process information. One goal: let computers run at normal speed with little or no electricity.
A team of Japanese researchers has proposed a model for the near future of computing based on identifying a 1 from a 0 according to the direction in which an electron spins, rather than where the chip had previously stashed an electrical charge.
The information-processing ability of nearly all modern computing gear is based on the quick-and-effective shuffling of electrical charges around circuits whose telling feature is the vast number of transistors that are present in pairs so that one can be charged to indicate a 1 and the other can be charged to represent a 0.
Spintronics (a portmanteau word meaning "spin transport electronics") is a promising non-volatile memory technology that stores 1s and 0s according to which direction a captive electron spins rather than the electrical charge it can deliver. Chips designed to provide non-volatile magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) would use less power, would theoretically run much faster, would be able to store the same data for years even when completely deprived of power, and could store and retrieve far more data far more quickly than conventional DRAM, SRAM, and NAND memory circuits.
Kevin Fogarty is a freelance writer covering networking, security, virtualization, cloud computing, big data and IT innovation. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, CNN.com, CIO, Computerworld, Network World and other leading IT publications. View Full Bio
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