updated 03:25 pm EDT, Wed August 13, 2008
Magnetic RAM technology
German engineers and physicists have made a prototype of an advanced RAM system that nears the theoretical speed limit for the process. According to a NewScientistTech report, this technology - known as Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) - is claimed to be faster and more efficient then RAM currentlyavailable. Some companies speculate the capabilities and low power consumption of MRAM may push the mobile market in the years to come. So far, however, the technology is in experimental stages at the moment, and is not available for distribution.
Standard RAM stores the binary 1 or 0 as the level of charge in a capacitor. MRAM stores the 1 or 0 as the polarity direction (North-South) in small magnets. Each magnet that can be flipped is situated next to a fixed magnet, the data is recovered by passing an electric current through the pair to read the direction of the field.
The particular type of MRAM prototyped here uses spins of electrons to flip the field. Santiago Serrano-Guisan and Hans Schumacher from the Physical-Technical Federal Laboratory in Germany collaborated with University of Bielefeld and Singulus Nano-Deposition Technologies to create a spin-torque system they claim is faster than any other. The speed of the system depends on how fast the magnetic field can be flipped. As the polarity is changed the field can flip a few times before settling, reducing speed, but these researches have developed a way to eliminate the extra wobble. They claim this advancement reaches the theoretical limit of speed for MRAM.
One of the researchers suggested the speed of other MRAM devices are limited to 10 nanosecond pulses, claiming the new technology prototyped here is ten times faster than that. The researchers also noted that some conventional RAM requires 30 nanoseconds for a comparable operation. Currents used in the tested device were too electrically dense to be used in MRAM circuits. Researchers will have to advance their technology to reduce currents to levels compatible with CMOS transistors.