IBM’s Latest Storage Technology ‘Racetrack’ Cheaper, Faster and Reliable

12 April 2008 By Shashank

When it comes to developing new technologies there is no other company who could invent fantastic innovations like IBM, we have already seen multitude of latest technologies coming from the IBM research labs like Nanophotonics technology, optical technology, vertical stacking technology, this time they have developed a new generation of memory technology named as ‘Racetrack’ which could possibly may end all our data storage woes. The storage devices built on Racetrack technology will have the ability to store 100 times more data than is possible today, consuming much less power and generate much less heat, lightning fast boot times, low cost and unprecedented durability and stability.

IBM says this technology could enable a handheld device such as an mp3 player to store around 500,000 songs or around 3,500 movies – 100 times more than is possible today. Since racetrack memory has no moving parts, and, rather than storing data as ensemble of electronic charge, uses the “spin” of the electron to store data, it has no wear-out mechanism and so can be rewritten endlessly without any wear and tear.

For nearly fifty years, scientists have explored the possibility of storing information in magnetic domain walls, which are the boundaries between magnetic regions or “domains” in magnetic materials. Until now, manipulating domain walls was expensive, complex, and used significant power to generate the fields necessary to do so. In the paper describing their milestone, “Current Controlled Magnetic Domain-Wall Nanowire Shift Register,” Dr. Parkin(IBM research center) and his team describe how this long-standing obstacle can be overcome by taking advantage of the interaction of spin polarized current with magnetization in the domain walls; this results in a spin transfer torque on the domain wall, causing it to move. The use of spin momentum transfer considerably simplifies the memory device since the current is passed directly across the domain wall without the need for any additional field generators.

The researchers are also expecting racetrack to move into the third dimension (3D) with the construction of a novel 3D racetrack memory device, a paradigm shift from traditional two-dimensional arrays of transistors and magnetic bits found in silicon-based microelectronic devices and hard disk drives. By moving into the third dimension, racetrack memory stands to open new possibilities for developing less expensive, faster devices because it is not dependant on miniaturization as dictated by Moore’s Law.

IBM also said that it would take around 8 years to fully develop Racetrack technology for commercial use.

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