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Computer memory takes a spin
Date:12/16/2010

McCamey says a memory made of silicon "doped" with phosphorus atoms could be used in both conventional electronic computers and in quantum computers in which data is stored not by "on" or "off" electrical charges, but by "up" or "down" magnetic spins in the nuclei of phosphorus atoms.

Externally applied electric fields would be used to read and process the data stored as "spins" just what McCamey, Boehme and colleagues did in their latest study. By demonstrating an ability to read data stored in nuclear spins, the physicists took a key step in linking spin to conventional electronics a field called spintronics.

Spin is an unfamiliar concept to comprehend. A simplified way to describe spin is to imagine that each particle like an electron or proton in an atom contains a tiny bar magnet, like a compass needle, that points either up or down to represent the particle's spin. Down and up can represent 0 and 1 in a spin-based quantum computer.

Boehme says the spins of atoms' nuclei are better for storing information than the spin of electrons. That's because electron spin orientations have short lifetimes because spins are easily changed by nearby electrons and the temperature within atoms.

In contrast, "the nucleus sits in the middle of an atom and its spin isn't messed with by what's going on in the clouds of electrons around the nucleus," McCamey says. "Nuclei experience nearly perfect solitude. That's why nuclei are a good place to store information magnetically. Nuclear spins where we store information have extremely long storage times before the information decays."

The average 112 second storage time in the new study may not seem long, but Boehme says the dynamic random access memory (DRAM) in a modern PC or laptop stores information for just milliseconds (thousandths of a second). The information must be repeatedly refreshed, which is how computer memory i
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Contact: Lee Siegel
leesiegel@ucomm.utah.edu
801-581-8993
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert  

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