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Weird Magnetic Behavior Could Improve Computer Memory

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When current flows through this nanomagnetic device, electrons move from the gold electrodes and into layers of platinum and tungsten metal, where they transfer their spin to the CoFeB magnet.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have identified an unusual magnetic phenomenon that could yield efficient, low-power computer memory.

Credit: Gopman/NIST

A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University suggests an unusual magnetic phenomenon could yield efficient, low-power computer memory.

The team's goal is to produce better magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) that can be written using smaller pulses of current, lowering power consumption and extending the life of memory arrays.

The researchers are investigating a different bit-switching mechanism that exploits spin-orbit torque.

The group was working with an experimental device comprised of nanometer-thin layers of a cobalt-iron-boron ferromagnet, a metal oxide, and tungsten, held between two gold electrodes. The researchers could flip the polarization of the magnet by applying current via the electrodes, but only in the presence of a magnetic field.

They added a layer of platinum under the tungsten, expecting it would neutralize the spin-switching effect, but instead they discovered they could flip the polarization of the platinum-frosted device by applying an electrical current, absent a magnetic field.

From Chemical & Engineering News
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