Researchers report breakthrough on MRAM development

Researchers from a New Zealand University are working on magnetic semiconductor material whose electrical conductivity can be controlled very precisely. The invention should lead to faster, more reliable computer memory. To achieve this, they use layers of ‘rare-earth nitrides’ (REN), which are thin films grown under ultra-high vacuum which are both magnetic and semiconducting.

The researchers are one of only a few worldwide exploring commercial applications of RENs, with two concepts already patented. They include developing the first magnetic memory storage devices based on RENs, called magnetic tunnel junctions.“What we’re working on is a magnetic type of RAM that doesn’t disappear. Because data is retained when the power is switched off, a device can perform faster, be more versatile and use less energy. This is ideal, as an example, for cloud data storage spanning across multiple servers,” said one of the researchers, Dr Ruck.

Magnetoresistive  RAM (MRAM) is a technology under development for decades but expected to become the dominant memory technology once it’s ready for the general public. As it combines the advantages of volatile RAM and non-volatile memory such as HDDs and SSDs, it’s expected to replace both, making it ‘universal memory’. Another benefit is that MRAM should provide high performance while consuming only a small amount of energy.“No one has made a magnetic semiconductor where you can truly control the electrical conductivity. Our results provide a new way to control conduction precisely, meaning you can swap a device from being magnetic to non-magnetic, surpassing existing electronics regarding speed and power consumption,” Dr Ruck added.

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