London, August 14 : German researchers have created a faster and more energy efficient version of the RAM used in computers today.
Santiago Serrano-Guisan and Hans Schumacher of the Physical-Technical Federal Laboratory of Germany have revealed that their version of RAM is about 10 times faster than the existing magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM), which hardware companies think will in a few years dominate the market.
"Present MRAM are programmed by pulses of about 10 nanoseconds duration. So we are ten times faster," New Scientist magazine quoted Serrano-Guisan as saying.
Compared to conventional RAM that stores a digital 1 or 0 as the level of charge in the capacitor, MRAM stores it by changing the north-south direction of a tiny magnet's magnetic field.
Just like the MRAM, according to the researchers, the new system also uses the spins of electrons to flip the magnetic fields.
Usually when the field is flipped, it takes some time to settle into its new orientation, and the north-south axis draws a few circles in the air before settling into place.
Theoretical work says that it needs to draw only one circle before finding its new position, making the process faster.
The German team says that it has developed a way to observe and control the field's wobble during and after the flip, and thereby to match the theoretical limit.
They say that by adjusting the duration and strength of the electrical pulse that flips the field, only a single "wobble" is allowed to take place, matching the theoretical limit.
The result is a device many times faster than any before, they add.
Robert Buhrman, an expert in nanomagnetics at Cornell University, New York, is impressed but notes that a full MRAM device has not yet been made.
He says that the current used by the German device is at present too electrically dense to be supplied by the transistors used in MRAM circuits.
"The next thing that needs to be done is to get the switching currents down to a scale that is compatible with the [standard] CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) transistor," said Buhrman.