‘Racetrack’ Magnetic Memory Could Make Computer Memory 100,000 Times Faster

Imagine a computer equipped with shock-proof memory that’s 100,000 times faster and consumes less power than current hard disks. EPFL Professor Mathias Kläui is working on a new kind of “Racetrack” memory, a high-volume, ultra-rapid non-volatile read-write magnetic memory that may soon make such a device possible.

Annoyed by how long it took his computer to boot up, Kläui began to think about an alternative. Hard disks are cheap and can store enormous quantities of data, but they are slow; every time a computer boots up, 2-3 minutes are lost while information is transferred from the hard disk into RAM (random access memory). The global cost in terms of lost productivity and energy consumption runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars a day.

Like the tried and true VHS videocassette, the proposed solution involves data recorded on magnetic tape. But the similarity ends there; in this system the tape would be a nickel-iron nanowire, a million times smaller than the classic tape.

And unlike a magnetic videotape, in this system nothing moves mechanically. The bits of information stored in the wire are simply pushed around inside the tape using a spin polarized current, attaining the breakneck speed of several hundred meters per second in the process. It’s like reading an entire VHS cassette in less than a second. Continue reading …

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