Square rings promise reliable MRAM

November 3/10, 2004

Magnetic random access memory stores bits of information magnetically rather than electronically, allowing this type of chip to retain data after the computer is turned off. Researchers are working on magnetic random access memory chips that hold as much data as standard electronic memory chips.

The challenge in making nanoscale magnetic memory elements suitable for high-capacity memory chips is controlling the magnetic switching of such tiny memory cells. In recent years researchers have found that a promising design is a nanowire bent into a circle. Magnetic rings have two stable magnetic states that can store 1s and 0s -- magnetic fields circulating clockwise, and magnetic fields circulating counterclockwise.

The key to making stable magnetic memory rings is introducing a small asymmetry in the ring. It is difficult to manufacture nanoscale rings that are asymmetric, however.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have found that square rings, which are easier to produce because straight lines are less difficult to etch the nanoscale than curves, could solve the problem. The researchers showed that the asymmetry inherent in rectangles is enough to yield the stable magnetic states needed for random access memory.

The researchers' prototype rings measured 1.5 by 1 microns, or thousandths of a millimeter, which is much larger than practical magnetic random access memory. Their eventual goal is to produce rings that measure less than 0.1 microns across. In theory, the smallest possible rings could store 400 gigabits per square inch, according to the researchers. Four hundred gigabits is the capacity of about 10 and a half DVDs.

The work appeared in the August 2, 2004 issue of Nanotechnology.

Page One

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DNA machines take a walk

DNA in nanotubes sorts molecules

Single field shapes quantum bits

Nanotubes lengthen to centimeters
Coated nanotubes record light
Photonic crystal lasers juiced
Lasers move droplets
Molecules form nano containers
Square rings promise reliable MRAM

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