updated 09:50 pm EST, Mon December 5, 2011
IBM racetrack memory made with common tech
IBM at the International Electronic Devices Meeting on Monday showed a working prototype of its racetrack memory made using conventional semiconductor tools. The 100 times more dense memory used to require a special research manufacturing machine but can now be made in a fully integrated way that should be much cheaper. IBM found it could put a nickel-iron layer on to a silicon wafer and etch out the 20-nanometer thick nanowires that define the memory.
The current prototype is rudimentary and has so far only proven that it can move one bit per wire at a time, since each wire only has one of the magnetic stripes used to store memory. IBM's inventor, Stuart Parkin, noted it was theoretical for now and that a new material could allow for layering multiple stripes on one wire. It could switch from 'soft' material that could be easily magnetized to a 'hard' material that would both have the tolerances to have multiple stripes coexist but could help keep the size down and reduce the precision needed to make each chip.
IBM may still be years away from commercializing racetrack memory. If implemented, however, it could lead to dramatically increased capacity versus traditional storage. [via MIT Technology Review]