Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Physicists measure current-induced torque in nonvolatile magnetic memory devices

10.03.2011
Tomorrow's nonvolatile memory devices – computer memory that can retain stored information even when not powered – will profoundly change electronics, and Cornell University researchers have discovered a new way of measuring and optimizing their performance.

Using a very fast oscilloscope, researchers led by Dan Ralph, the Horace White Professor of Physics, and Robert Buhrman, the J.E. Sweet Professor of Applied and Engineering Physics, have figured out how to quantify the strength of current-induced torques used to write information in memory devices called magnetic tunnel junctions. The results were published online Feb. 28 in the journal Nature Physics.

Magnetic tunnel junctions are memory storage devices made of a sandwich of two ferromagnets with a nanometers-thick oxide insulator in between. The electrical resistance of the device is different for parallel and nonparallel orientations of the magnetic electrodes, so that these two states create a nonvolatile memory element that doesn't require electricity for storing information. An example of nonvolatile memory today is flash memory, but that is a silicon-based technology subject to wearing out after repeated writing cycles, unlike magnetic memory.

What has held back magnetic memory technology is that it has required magnetic fields to switch the magnetic states – that is, to write information. This limits their size and efficiency because magnetic fields are long-ranged and relatively weak, so that large currents and thick wires are needed to generate a large-enough field to switch the device.

The Cornell researchers are studying a new generation of magnetic devices that can write information without using magnetic fields. Instead, they use a mechanism called "spin torque," which arises from the idea that electrons have a fundamental spin (like a spinning top). When the electrons interact with the magnets in the tunnel junctions, they transfer some of their angular momentum. This can provide a very strong torque per unit current, and has been demonstrated to be at least 500 times more efficient than using magnetic fields to write magnetic information, Ralph said.

To measure these spin torques, the researchers used an oscilloscope in a shared facility operated by Cornell's Center for Nanoscale Systems. They applied torque to the magnetic tunnel junctions using an alternating current and measured the amplitude of resistance oscillations that resulted. Since the resistance depends on the relative orientation of the two magnets in the tunnel junction, the size of the resistance oscillations could be related directly to the amplitude of the magnetic motion, and hence to the size of the torque.

The researchers hope such experiments will help industry make better nonvolatile memory devices by understanding exactly how to structure them, and also, what materials would best be used as the oxide insulators and the ferromagnets surrounding them.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research, and included collaborators Chen Wang, graduate student and first author; graduate student Yong-Tao Cui; and Jordan A. Katine from Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

Blaine Friedlander | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?
23.06.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>