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The Grill: Caroline Ross

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The modification of random-access memory (RAM) to help boost computer performance is the goal of Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Caroline Ross. Magnetoresistive random-access memories (MRAMs) "provide an alternative data storage mechanism [to hard drives] that does not have any moving parts and that can easily be integrated into computers," Ross says in an interview. "There are some new discoveries in magnetism that are very important in MRAM — for example, current-induced magnetization reversal to write the bits, magnetoresistance to read back the bits."

Ross says that MRAM is unique by being fast, dense, and nonvolatile, which means that it stores data even when the power is deactivated. "Probably the most obvious difference would be that when you start up the computer, you would not need to wait for all the programs and data to be copied from the hard disk onto the RAM, so the computer would switch on instantly," she notes. Ross says that in MRAM, a single nanomagnet is used to store one bit of data, and one transistor is used to address this. She expects MRAM to penetrate niche markets as the manufacturing processes undergo improvement, while large-scale use will not happen until the cost shrinks.

From Computerworld
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