Scientists take steps to create a 'racetrack memory,' potentially enhancing data storage

May 05, 2020

A team of scientists has taken steps to create a new form of digital data storage, a "Racetrack Memory," which opens the possibility to both bolster computer power and lead to the creation of smaller, faster, and more energy efficient computer memory technologies.

"Racetrack memory, which reconfigures magnetic fields in innovative ways, could supplant current methods of mass data storage, such as flash memory and disk drives, due to its improved density of information storage, faster operation, and lower energy use," says Yassine Quessab, a postdoctoral fellow at New York University's Center for Quantum Phenomena (CQP) and the lead author of the work, which is reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

"While additional development is necessary in order to deploy them in consumer electronics, this pioneering type of memory may soon become the next wave of mass data storage," adds NYU Physics Professor Andrew Kent, the paper's senior author.

Today's devices, from smart phones to laptops to cloud-based storage, rely on a remarkable and growing density of digital data storage. Because the need will only increase in the future, researchers have been seeking ways to improve storage technologies--enhancing their capacities and speed while diminishing their size.

The breakthrough reported in Scientific Reports, which also included researchers from the University of Virginia, the University of California, San Diego, the University of Colorado, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, stemmed from a goal to develop a new format of digital memory.

The team's focus was on "a skyrmion racetrack memory," an undeveloped type of memory that reverses the processes of existing storage.

Many current mass data storage platforms function like an old musical cassette tape, which reads data by moving material (i.e., the tape) with a motor across a reader (i.e., in the cassette player), then decodes the information written on the material to reproduce sound. By contrast, racetrack memory does the opposite: the material stays in place and the information itself is moved across the reader--without the need to move mechanical parts, such as a motor.

The information is carried by a magnetic object called a skyrmion that can be moved by applying an external stimulus, such as a current pulse. A skyrmion, a magnetic texture with a whirling spin configuration, spins as if curled up in a ball. This ball of spins represents a bit of information that can be moved quickly as well as created and erased with electrical pulses. Skyrmions can be very small and moved at high speed at a low energy cost, thus enabling faster, high-density, and more energy-efficient data storage.

However, there remain barriers to this form of data storage.

"We found that small skyrmions are only stable in very specific material environments, so identifying the ideal materials that can host skyrmions and the circumstances under which they are created is a first priority for making the technology applicable," observes Kent. "This has been the focus of our research thus far."

The researchers' tests indicated that magnetic materials which generate only small magnetic fields--materials known as ferrimagnets--are favorable for creating small skyrmions and moving them. They showed that magnetic interactions can be precisely controlled in these materials to favor the formation of skyrmions.

The advances are part of CQP's larger effort in the area of spintronics--how the "spin" of electron particles interact with magnetization. An understanding of these interactions can lead to new capacities to manipulate magnetic and electric fields.
The work was supported by DARPA grants No. D18AP00009 and R186870004 and by the Department of Energy (DESC0018237).

New York University

Related Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Memory of the Venus flytrap
In a study to be published in Nature Plants, a graduate student Mr.

Memory protein
When UC Santa Barbara materials scientist Omar Saleh and graduate student Ian Morgan sought to understand the mechanical behaviors of disordered proteins in the lab, they expected that after being stretched, one particular model protein would snap back instantaneously, like a rubber band.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

Memory boost with just one look
HRL Laboratories, LLC, researchers have published results showing that targeted transcranial electrical stimulation during slow-wave sleep can improve metamemories of specific episodes by 20% after only one viewing of the episode, compared to controls.

VR is not suited to visual memory?!
Toyohashi university of technology researcher and a research team at Tokyo Denki University have found that virtual reality (VR) may interfere with visual memory.

The genetic signature of memory
Despite their importance in memory, the human cortex and subcortex display a distinct collection of 'gene signatures.' The work recently published in eNeuro increases our understanding of how the brain creates memories and identifies potential genes for further investigation.

How long does memory last? For shape memory alloys, the longer the better
Scientists captured live action details of the phase transitions of shape memory alloys, giving them a better idea how to improve their properties for applications.

A NEAT discovery about memory
UAB researchers say over expression of NEAT1, an noncoding RNA, appears to diminish the ability of older brains to form memories.

Molecular memory can be used to increase the memory capacity of hard disks
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have taken part in an international British-Finnish-Chinese collaboration where the first molecule capable of remembering the direction of a magnetic above liquid nitrogen temperatures has been prepared and characterized.

Memory transferred between snails
Memories can be transferred between organisms by extracting ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a trained animal and injecting it into an untrained animal, as demonstrated in a study of sea snails published in eNeuro.

Read More: Memory News and Memory Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to