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UCLA engineers develop new energy-efficient computer memory using magnetic materials
Date:12/14/2012

By using electric voltage instead of a flowing electric current, researchers from UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have made major improvements to an ultra-fast, high-capacity class of computer memory known as magnetoresistive random access memory, or MRAM.

The UCLA team's improved memory, which they call MeRAM for magnetoelectric random access memory, has great potential to be used in future memory chips for almost all electronic applications, including smart-phones, tablets, computers and microprocessors, as well as for data storage, like the solid-state disks used in computers and large data centers.

MeRAM's key advantage over existing technologies is that it combines extraordinary low energy with very high density, high-speed reading and writing times, and non-volatility the ability to retain data when no power is applied, similar to hard disk drives and flash memory sticks, but MeRAM is much faster.

Currently, magnetic memory is based on a technology called spin-transfer torque (STT), which uses the magnetic property of electrons referred to as spin in addition to their charge. STT utilizes an electric current to move electrons to write data into the memory.

Yet while STT is superior in many respects to competing memory technologies, its electric currentbased write mechanism still requires a certain amount of power, which means that it generates heat when data is written into it. In addition, its memory capacity is limited by how close to each other bits of data can be physically placed, a process which itself is limited by the currents required to write information. The low bit capacity, in turn, translates into a relatively large cost per bit, limiting STT's range of applications.

With MeRAM, the UCLA team has replaced STT's electric current with voltage to write data into the memory. This eliminates the need to move large numbers of electrons through wires and instead u
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Contact: Matthew Chin
mchin@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0680
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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