Feeds

Duke of Edinburgh gives spintronics researchers a pile of cash

Atomic nuclei can store data, boffins discover

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The Duke of Edinburgh is funding research into spintronics that has demonstrated the reading and writing of data from the spin of the nuclei of phosphorous atoms.

The grand old D of E, through the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 which he heads, is but one of many funders of the research which has been carried out by boffins at the University of Utah, University of Sydney, Florida State University and the London Centre for Nanotchnology. The findings were published in the 17 December issue of Science (subscription access only).

Previously, information has been stored momentarily in the spin of electrons. Professor Christoph Boehme ran a 2006 project at the University of Utah which demonstrated the reading and writing of binary data from around 10,000 electrons in phosphorous atoms which had been inserted into a silicon substrate. The initial spin of the electrons had been lined up by a high-strength magnetic field.

The latest study took the same basic approach but looked at the atomic nuclei spin, using electron spins to do so. A 1mm square chip containing phosphorous atoms in a silicon substrate was used, with the material cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero, (3.2 degrees Kelvin, 454 degrees less than zero Fahrenheit), and surrounded by an 8.6 Tesla magnetic field, some 200,000 times stronger than that of planet Earth. This lined up the atoms' electron spins, which could then be changed by writing data to them. FM radio waves were then used to transfer the electron spins to the atomic nuclei.

Radio wavelengths in the high hundreds of gigahertz area were then used to transfer the up or down nuclei spins, representing binary ones or zeros, back to the electrons and the electrons' spin value read out as variations in an electrical current, thus integrating spintronics and electronics. The kickers here were that this could be done up to 112 seconds after the nuclei spin had been set, and the nuclei spins could be read and re-read 2,000 times, meaning that the technique is reliable and durable enough, the researchers say, for use as a computer memory technology.

Electron spins are unstable because of interference from surrounding electrons, whereas an atomic nucleus is a pretty isolated entity. A 112 second refresh time is more than enough for computer main memory, where millisecond refresh rates are the rule.

The researchers dangle the carrot of having both computer memory and processing engine in the same silicon chip. There are the somewhat tricky problems of getting this to work without an enormous magnetic field and near-absolute-zero-capable refrigeration unit, but researchers hunting funding dollars allow for no such obstacles.

Indeed, they say the technique could be used both for binary computers and for the glamorous prospective quantum computer with qubits being one and zero simultaneously. However, this would require the ability to read and write the spin of a single atomic nucleus. That requires more research. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
AWS pulls desktop-as-a-service from the PC
Support for PCoIP protocol means zero clients can run cloudy desktops
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.