Current technology uses one magnetic domain to store a single bit of information. The new finding suggests that a cluster of many domains could be used to solve a complex computational problem in a single calculation. Computation of this type is known as a neural network, and is more similar to how our brains work than to the way in which traditional computers process information.
Dr Branford, who is an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellow in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, said: "Electronics manufacturers are trying all the time to squeeze more data into the same devices, or the same data into a tinier space for handheld devices like smart phones and mobile computers. However, the innate interaction between magnets has so far limited what they can do. In some new types of memory, manufacturers try to avoid the limitations of magnetism by avoiding using magnets altogether, using things like ferroelectric (flash) memory, memristors or antiferromagnets instead. However, these solutions are slow, expensive or hard to read out. Our philosophy is to harness the magnetic interactions, making them work in our favour."
Although today's research represents a key step forward, the researchers say there are many hurdles to overcome before scientists will be able to create prototype devices based on this technique such as developing an algorithm to control the computation. The nature of this algorithm will determine whether the room temperature state can be used or if the low temperature collective behaviour is required. However, they are optimistic that if these challenges can be tackled successfully, new technology using magnetic honeycombs might be available in ten to fifteen years.
In experiments, Dr Branford applied an electrical current
|Contact: Simon Levey|
Imperial College London