August 05, 2011, 4:42 PM — Storing data magnetically to hard drives means firing up wires and coils to flip spaces only tens of nanometers in area into either magnetic up or down to indicate 1s or 0s.
That takes more power and space than you want to have to keep carrying around an airport. So the search for more efficient storage continues.
The latest potential advance comes from a research paper published in Nature this week describing work French and Spanish researchers found to eliminate the magnetic coils but keep writing magnetically, in far smaller spots than previously possible.
The technique creates a false magnetic effect by covering the disk with a nanometer-thick layer of cobalt and running an electric current through it.
Electrons crossing the cobalt layer behave as if the electrical field is a magnetic field, due to unexplained but "subtle relativistic effects," (because the coarse, obvious ones are gauche).
By varying the intensity of the electrical field it's possible to twist the magnetization of the electrons, creating a strong enough magnetic effect to get the misled and manipulated electrons to reverse the magnetization on specific areas of the disk to store data.
The data stored on the so-called magnetic random access memory (MRAM) chips would also be more persistent than regular RAM – to the point that data on them wouldn't have to be refreshed every few milliseconds and allow them to hold enough data to boot a laptop or application instantly when the power is turned on.
Currently the size of the magnetized data-bits is larger than the current state-of-the-art in magnetic-coil data storage, but has the potential to be made much smaller, the authors predict.
Not having to constantly rewrite the same data using far more inefficient magnetic coils would also save a huge amount of power though it's not clear if the electrons would be told this or if they'd have to continue living under the mistaken impression they'd encountered a genuine magnetic field rather than a faux field from Grenoble.