Advances in tiny magnetic microchips pave the way for smaller, cheaper and disposable computers
(9 September 2005)
A team of researchers from Durham University, Imperial College London and University of Sheffield have created a basic computer using magnetic microchips rather than semiconductor electronics, offering a potentially cheaper and simpler way of computing for the future which could be put to new and useful purposes.
This research, published today in the prestigious international journal Science, follows the team’s groundbreaking first step in 2002 at Durham, when they managed to create a basic computer operation or ‘logic gate’ using a magnetic microchip. Since 2002 the team has created a number of further ‘logic gates’ and interconnecting structures using magnetic ‘nanowires’ which can now reproduce the logic functions of a conventional computer powered by semiconductor electronics.
Dr Del Atkinson of Durham University commented: “This new technology offers a number of advantages over conventional computers. Electronic microchips generate a lot of heat which creates the need for fans in PC units, whereas these magnetic microchips do not. The magnetic microchips that we’ve created are also simpler and potentially cheaper to produce than electronic chips as they use simple metals layers. This means that they could be used for cheap and therefore disposable simple computers in the future. “These developments are important and exciting and while there is still some way to go, the potential is there to create a whole new technology based on magnetism rather than electricity.”
The team is working in the rapidly growing field of nanotechnology, harnessing the magnetic properties of electrons, rather than their electrical charge on which conventional electronics is based. Nanotechnology involves working with materials at an extremely microscopic level. A nanometre is one thousand millionth of a metre - about the width of five atoms.
For more information visit: www.dur.ac.uk/nanostructures.physics