T-rays research accelerates computer memory

Researchers from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), together with colleagues from Germany and the Netherlands, have discovered a way to significantly improve computer memory performance.

‘We have demonstrated an entirely new way of controlling magnetisation, which relies on short electromagnetic pulses at terahertz frequencies. This is an important step towards terahertz electronics. As far as we know, our study is the first to make use of this mechanism to trigger the oscillations of magnetic subsystems,’ says Anatoly Zvezdin of Prokhorov General Physics Institute and MIPT, who is heading MIPT’s Laboratory of physics of magnetic heterostructures and spintronics for energy-saving information technologies.

As the industry reaches the hard limits of materials science it is becoming increasingly difficult to shrink the size of transistors – which limits the performance increase that can be derived from ‘traditional’ means. This challenges motivating scientists all over the world to investigate new and innovative computing technologies.

One such group of scientists, including Sebastian Baierl of the University of Regensburg, Anatoly Zvezdin, and Alexey Kimel of Radboud University, in the Netherlands, and Moscow Technological University (MIREA) proposed that electromagnetic pulses at terahertz frequencies (with wavelengths of about 0.1 millimeter, could be used in memory switching instead of external magnetic fields.

One application that uses terahertz radiation is the airport body scanner. T‑rays can expose weapons or explosives concealed under a person’s clothing, without causing any harm to live tissues.

To find out, whether T‑rays could be used for convenient memory states switching (storing ‘magnetic bits’ of information), the researchers performed an experiment with thulium orthoferrite (TmFeO).

This experiment demonstrated that it is possible to control magnetisation directly by using terahertz radiation, which excites electronic transitions in thulium ions and alters the magnetic properties of both iron and thulium ions. While it is still very early days for this technology, this research proves that it is possible to use T-rays in memory technology.

In fact, the team found that the effect of T‑rays proved to be almost 10 times greater than that of the external magnetic field meaning that this new method would be faster and more efficient than traditional memory. While you will not see T-rays in a computer for several years this research establishes a method of fast and highly efficient remagnetisation which could be the foundation for developing ultra-fast memory technology in the future.

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