Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) claims quantum techniques enable switching 1,000 times faster memory than current methods.
Magnetic switching is used to encode information in hard drives, magnetic random access memory and other computing devices. The discovery, reported in the April 4 issue of Nature, potentially opens the door to terahertz (1012 hertz) and faster memory speeds.
Ames Laboratory physicist Jigang Wang and his team used short laser pulses to create ultra-fast changes in the magnetic structure, within quadrillionths of a second (femtosecond), from anti-ferromagnetic to ferromagnetic ordering in colossal magnetoresistive materials (CRM), which are promising for use in next-generation memory and logic devices.
“The challenge facing magnetic writing, reading, storing and computing is speed, and we showed that we can meet the challenge to make the magnetic switches think ultra-fast in the femtosecond range – one quadrillionth of a second – by using quantum tricks with ultrashort laser pulses,” said Jigang Wang, lead researcher on the project.
In current magnetic storage and magneto-optical recording technology, magnetic field or continuous laser light is used. For example, photo-excitation causes atoms in ferromagnetic materials to heat up and vibrate, and the vibration, with the help of a magnetic field, causes magnetic flips. The flips are part of the process used to encode information.
Although still at an early stage with more research needed to better understand how CMRs work, the researchers believe the technology could lead to significantly faster storage and memory chips.
“Our strategy is to use all-optical quantum methods to achieve magnetic switching and control magnetism. This lays the groundwork for seeking the ultimate switching speed and capabilities of CMR materials, a question that underlies the entire field of spin-electronics,” said Wang.