IBM's Racetrack speeds its way to super memory
11 April 2008
IBM scientists at the IBM's Almaden Research Centre in San Jose have built a new class of memory, called "racetrack," which could provide the platform for future data storage devices with more storage facility and operating at a greater speed, than today's devices.
Racetrack memory is the name for the physical configuration in which information is stored: in tiny magnetic domains within a U-shaped, nanoscopic wire that is embedded into a silicon chip. Each successive domain wall along the racetrack has an opposite magnetic charge to its neighbours, hence altering the magnetic spin of electrons as current passes through the wire.
The advantages of racetrack memory over today's memory technologies include operating at a greater speed, consuming much less power, and being practically indestructible, potentially unleashing applications that nobody has even imagined yet.
The premise behind racetrack memory is spintronics, a technology that manipulates the charge and spin properties of electrons. Using spintronics, hard-drive makers have developed drives that read data from a microscopically small area.
Racetrack memory could lead to the development of electronic devices capable of storing far more data in the same amount of space than is possible today, with lightning-fast boot times and far lower cost, stability and durability, says IBM.
Currently, digital information is stored in solid state random access flash memory, commonly used in devices such as mobile phones, music players and digital cameras and in magnetic hard disk drive, commonly used in desktop and laptop computers and some handheld devices.