IBM scientists provided a proof-of-concept demonstration of a new type of nanotechnology-enabled computer memory in which magnetic domain walls are moved along a nanowire “racetrack”. From “IBM creates working racetrack memory device“, written by Paul Marks at NewScientist.com news service:
A new type of computer memory that has for years been touted as the future of data storage has finally been demonstrated. Researchers at IBM have finally constructed the first “racetrack” memory device.
Racetrack memory was dreamed up and patented by Stuart Parkin, one of IBM’s chief researchers, more than four years ago.
His calculations suggest it could provide faster, cheaper and higher capacity storage than RAM or hard disk storage. But the technique at its core had until now not been demonstrated.
…The bits — 1s and 0s — of data in racetrack memory are stored in the tiny magnetic domains of a very thin U-shaped wire. A magnetic field is used to write data to the domains. Pulsing current through the wire pushes those domains along the track, past sensors that can read off the data.
…Masamitsu Hayashi and colleagues in Parkin’s lab have now successfully built and operated just such a device. The first ever racetrack memory device is able to store and read three bits of data using the racetrack method.
This is a first – and an important one – says Guido Meier of the University of Hamburg, who researches spin effects for memory devices.
…Parkin now plans to develop a chip in which thousands of U-shaped racetracks operate together, in deep, 3D arrays. “We really need to think of intelligent ways of using the third dimension in memory technologies,” he told New Scientist.
The research was reported in Science (abstract). A commentary (subscription required) in the same issue describes the accomplishment and surveys the opinions of both supporters and skeptics as to whether it will lead to a commercially practical device. “Time will tell whether it leads to a revolutionary new technology or fades from memory.”