Friday, April 11, 2008

"CHIPS: IBM 'racetrack' memory seeks to replace flash, disk drives"

A next-generation nonvolatile memory dubbed "racetrack" is expected to initially replace flash memory and eventually hard-disk drives, according to IBM Corp. fellow Stuart Parkin of its Almaden Research Center (San Jose, Calif.) Using spintronics--the storage of bits generated by the magnetic spin of electrons rather than their charge--a proof-of-concept shift register was recently demonstrated by IBM. The prototype encodes bits into the magnetic domain walls along the length of a silicon nanowire, or racetrack. IBM uses "massless motion" to move the magnetic domain walls along the nanowire for the storage and retrieval of information. IBM's goal, based on spintronic patents filed as early as 2004, is to use the same square micron that currently houses a single SRAM memory bit, or 10 flash bits, and drill down into the third dimension to store spin-polarized bits on a sunken racetrack-shaped magnetic nanowire. Using an area of silicon 1 micron wide and 10 microns high, IBM said its first-generation racetrack would store 10 bits compared to one, thereby replacing flash memory. Eventually, it could store 100 bits in the same area, which is dense enough to replace hard-disk drives.