Now, ‘racetrack’ memory for PCs to beat ‘back-up’ blues

April 4th, 2009 - 12:48 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 4 (ANI): No need to panic if your hard disk is about to crash and you have not yet copied your favourite pictures and notes on a CD, for a new kind of computer memory may soon make ‘back-up’ a thing of the past.

Racetrack memory, developed by Physicists at the University of Leeds and scientists at IBM Research’s Zurich lab, may become the standard method of storing information in home computers.

Commonly used hard drives are metal discs made up of millions of tiny spaces, called domains, in which all the atoms are magnetised in one direction or the other to represent binary data.

The disc spins around until the ‘head’ finds and reads the information, just like a record player.

However, racetrack memory, a concept invented by Stuart Parkin at IBM Research’s Almaden Lab, has no moving parts - instead it is the information that moves.

It works on a kind of physics called spin transfer, in which scientists use electrons (in the form of electrical current) to switch the magnetism of the domains, pushing them to a different location along a nanowire.

“The reason why the hard disk on your computer is likely to break is because it has moving parts which eventually wear out, but the racetrack method of storing information is much more reliable as all the parts are static,” said Dr Chris Marrows, reader in condensed matter physics at the University of Leeds.

In comparison to flash memory, found in flash drives and iPods, racetrack memory is expected to be 100 times cheaper.

“Magnetic racetrack memory is designed to replace the hard disk, and it’s estimated that it could compete on price since it’s very dense - it can store lots of bits of data on a small area of chip, as the information is stored in vertical towers,” said another researcher working on the project.

Racetrack memory is not only more reliable than hard disks but faster also.

There are no ’seek’ times when the head has to search the disk for information, so computers would be able to boot up almost instantly.

It is believed that a fully working racetrack memory could be available within 10 years.

The study has been published in Physical Review Letters. (ANI)

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