Research

Berkeley Researchers Demonstrate Ultra Low Energy Magnetic Chips

Engineers at UC Berkeley have demonstrated that magnetic chips can "operate at the lowest fundamental energy dissipation theoretically possible under the laws of thermodynamics," according to a news story on the university's site. The findings have been published in a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

For decades, manufacturers have been packing an increasing number of ever-tinier and ever-faster transistors onto electronic chips. "Making transistors go faster was requiring too much energy," said Jeffrey Bokor, a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and lead author on the paper, on the university's site. "The chips were getting so hot they'd just melt."

The researchers demonstrated for the first time that magnetic chips could reach the Landauer limit, the lowest possible amount of energy required by each single-bit operation in a computer, "as little as one-millionth the amount of energy per operation used by transistors in modern computers," according to the Berkeley news story. Bokor and his team published a paper in 2011 that said the Landauer limit could theoretically be reached, but they have now demonstrated the theory. The paper is a proof of principle, but it will take time to put magnetic chips into production, according to Berkeley's news story.

Bokor conducted the research project in collaboration with Jeongmin Hong, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley; Brian Lambson, a graduate student at UC Berkeley; and Scott Dhuey, a principal scientific engineering associate at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry. The project was supported by the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Energy.

The paper, "Experimental test of Landauer's principle in single-bit operations on nanomagnetic memory bits," can be found on the Science Advances site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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