Boffins Claim Longer Data Storage With MRAM Innovation

A potential improvement to the longevity of data storage could be in the pipeline, after an invention by a team of boffins.

The team of researchers from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering said they have developed a Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) technology that will boost information storage in electronic systems.

MRAM Development

MRAM is an emerging technology in data storage as it is non-volatile, which means that data can be retrieved even when the electronic equipment or device is not powered up.

The technology aims to drastically increase storage space and enhance memory and would ensure that fresh data stays intact, even in the case of a power failure.

In the next phase of their research, the team, which is working in collaboration with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, plans to apply the invented structure in memory cells.

The team is also for industry partners for collaborations on developing a spin-orbit torque-based MRAM, and they have already filed a US provisional patent for their technology.

“From the consumer’s standpoint, we will no longer need to wait for our computers or laptops to boot up. Storage space will increase, and memory will be so enhanced that there is no need to regularly hit the ‘save’ button as fresh data will stay intact even in the case of a power failure,” team leader Yang Hyunsoo said in a statement. “Devices and equipment can now have bigger memory with no loss for at least 20 years or probably more. Currently pursued schemes with a very thin magnetic layer can only retain information for about a year.”

Industry Efforts

Major semiconductor players such as Samsung, Intel, Toshiba and IBM are intensifying research efforts in MRAM and the NUS team said its technology has received interest from the industry.

“With the heavy reliance on our mobile phones these days, we usually need to charge them daily,” Yang continued. “Using our new technology, we may only need to charge them on a weekly basis.”

The current methods of applying MRAM revolve around technology that uses an in-plane, or horizontal, current-induced magnetization. This method uses ultra-thin ferromagnetic structures, which are difficult to implement because of their thickness of less than 1 nanometre.

To make matters more complicated, their manufacturing reliability is low and tends to retain information for only less than one year. The NUS team incorporated magnetic multilayer structures as thick as 20 nanometres, providing an alternative film structure for transmission of electronic data and storage, allows for storage that can last for a minimum of 20 years.

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Originally published on eWeek.

Nathan Eddy

Nathan Eddy is a contributor to eWeek and TechWeekEurope, covering cloud and BYOD

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