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!
Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University
Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences