Magnetic memory: a new mechanism minimizes consumption (Press review)

The experiment, published in 'Nature Communications', involves CNR, Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste and Politecnico di Milano, and paves the way for a new generation of highly efficient devices, with energy consumption reduced over a thousandfold compared to current levels

A new mechanism  for writing information in digital memories with unprecedented efficiency was discovered at the Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste research centre located at Area Science Park by an international group of researchers led by the National Research Council (CNR) and Politecnico di Milano.  The experiment, published in 'Nature Communications', is based on the magnetization of a material through an electrical pulse and paves the way for a new generation of highly efficient devices, with energy consumption reduced over a thousandfold compared to what current technologies allow.

“The storing of information in memory systems, such as a computer’s hard disk – explains Piero Torelli, a physicist at the CNR’s Istituto Officina dei Materiali in Trieste and one of the paper’s authors – still takes place through a small electromagnet that magnetizes the disk’s surface: this is a lengthy, energy-intensive process that does not allow for high miniaturization. Inducing magnetization through an electric field would have enormous advantages and allow us to overcome current limits, reducing energy consumption a thousandfold and making a dream come true for the scientific community and for anyone in search of new technological solutions for modern electronics”.

Thanks to this experiment, the research group discovered a system in which magnetization can be turned on or off in response to the application of an electric field, in a reversible manner and at room temperature. “The system we studied –Torelli continues – comprises two layers of inexpensive, widely available materials: a layer of iron and one of barium oxide and titanium that, once overlaid, react by forming a very thin layer of iron oxide at the interface. By performing a spectroscopic analysis of the sample using Elettra’s synchrotron light we succeeded in studying the properties of each layer, and noted that the magnetization at the interface varied – in a controllable and reversible manner - depending on the electrical field applied to the oxide layer”. 

The experiment’s success confirms that combining materials with ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties in adjacent layers is a promising technique to achieve electric control of magnetization and paves the way for a new generation of memory devices: modern electronic tools that can combine the advantages of ferroelectricity (low cost of writing information) and magnetism (duration of information storage).
Nature Communications 5, Article number:3404  DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4404
Title: “Electric control of magnetism at the Fe/BaTiO3 interface”.
Authors: G. Radaelli, D. Petti, E. Plekhanov, I. Fina, P. Torelli, B. R. Salles, M. Cantoni, C. Rinaldi, D. Gutiérrez, G. Panaccione, M. Varela, S. Picozzi, J. Fontcuberta and R. Bertacco, 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 16:56