13 April 2018
A computer the size of a pinhead may be closer than we think, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire (UNH).
UNH says an ‘easily made combination of materials’ might be the way to offer a more stable environment for smaller and safer data storage, ultimately leading to miniature computers.
“We’re really optimistic about the possibilities,” says assistant professor Jiadong Zang, of UNH. “There is a push in the computer industry toward smaller and more powerful storage, yet current combinations of materials can create volatile situations, where data can be lost once the device is turned off.
“Our research points to this new combination as a much safer option,” he continues. “We’re excited that our findings might have the potential to change the landscape of information technology.”
The researchers say their work would allow for a more stable perpendicular anisotropic energy, the key driving component in a computer’s RAM or data storage. The material would be made up of ultrathin films, known as Fe monolayers, grown on top of non-magnetic substances, in this case X nitride substrate, where X could be boron, gallium, aluminum or indium.
According to the research, this combination showed anisotropic energy would increase by 50 times, from 1meV to 50meV. The team says this would allow for larger amounts of data to be stored in smaller environments.
“There is a huge movement to switch to magnetic random access memory for storage in computers because it is more stable,” explains Zang. “Not only is data storage safer, but there is also less radiation emitted from the device.”
“Our calculations and material combination opens the door to possibilities for much smaller computers for everything from basic data storage to traveling on space missions,” he adds. “Imagine launching a rocket with a computer the size of a pin head – it not only saves space, but also a lot of fuel.”