Land and oceans
White roofs could cool cities: study
Enzyme crystal helps crack HIV puzzle
Sugar sweetens decision making
Twilight zone secrets revealed
Astronomers spot asteroid collision
Algae master quantum mechanics
Protein 'ushers' key to beating malaria
Researchers spin artificial bee silk
New view of Pluto increases mystery
Cell's power packs came from within
Antarctic snow linked to WA dry
Termites inspire hydrophobic materials
Study shows why it's scary to lose money
Soil impact underestimated: climate study
Lack of oxygen forced fish's first breath
Harder Sudoku puzzles on the way?
Weed genes could help feed the world
Logging makes forests more flammable: study
Food crisis looms warn scientists
Tiny sensors track 'lost' objects
'Climategate' university orders review
'Plumbing' key to flowering success
New twist on solar cell design
Scientists set new temperature record
Nanowire RAM to make ever-ready computers
Nanowires could be used to significantly boost conventional RAM, resulting in computers that are ready the minute you turn them on, and don't lose data when the power fails, says a US researcher.

Dr Stuart Parkin, an IBM research fellow based in San Jose presents his research on "racetrack memory" this week at the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Sydney.

"You would never have to save your data or reboot your computer," says Parkin.

Current computers use solid state RAM to process data, but store data as magnetised regions on a hard disk drive.

The problem is, says Parkin, while hard disks are relatively economical, they are slow and unreliable.

It takes time for the disk to rotate to a point where data can be read or written. This is one of the reasons why it can be slow for a computer to boot up, as it loads the software from the hard disk into the RAM.

The reading and writing gadget can also crash the disk causing catastrophic damage, and if the power fails, information in the RAM that has not been saved to the hard disk is lost.
Two in one

Parkin says racetrack memory would combine the low cost of a hard drive with the reliability and speed of RAM in a single solid-state device. The result is RAM that is 100 times larger than currently available.

All data would be stored instantaneously so it is not lost when power is removed from the computer, he says.

"We're going to replace both the storage and the memory, if we're successful, with this one technology," says Parkin.

"You will then have a homogeneous technology where you can store the data but you can also perform computations on the data because it's so fast and doesn't wear out like the cheap memories today, like flash [memory used in USB sticks]."

Parkin says racetrack memory would make computers, simpler, smaller, more reliable, and more energy efficient as well as giving them much faster access to stored data.
Nanowire forest

While conventional RAM uses a single layer of silicon, racetrack memory will use a three-dimensional system to store more information, says Parkin.

He says the magnetic hard disk is replaced by a forest of magnetic nanowires, each sitting on silicon chip, and each with its own reading and writing gadget.

Each nanowire has about 100 magnetic regions representing digital data.

Instead of having to mechanically rotate a disk, a magnetic region can be moved up or down the nanowires (racetracks) depending on whether it needs to be read.

The regions are moved using the latest developments in spintronics, which exploits a quantum property of electrons, called spin.

Electron spin can be either up or down, but when all the electron spins in a material are aligned, this generates magnetism.

Parkin says magnetically-encoded data can be moved up and down the nanowires using a current of electrons, whose spin are all in one direction.

About 10 years ago, Parkin invented the device that uses electron spin to "read" data on hard disc drives.

He says the device was very sensitive and enabled hard disc to be used to store 1000 times more information than was possible before.

Parkin is now involved in building a prototype racetrack memory device and hopes that it will be available in consumer products in 5 to 10 years.

Horny mother beetles fight for dung
Light-speed computing one step closer
Small asteroids 'just lumps of gravel'
Gene study reveals diverse gut zoo
Dinosaur extinction caused by asteroid: study
Study finds methane bubbling from Arctic
New view reveals Mars' icy history
Some nano-sunscreens 'come at a cost'
Dust bunnies could harbour toxic load
Aphid genome reveals its 'Achilles heel'
Tailored diet may slow down DNA damage
Scientist probe ballistic chameleon tongue
Moa eggshells yield ancient DNA
Toothbrush tech helps buses go green
Gene protects some Tassie devils from tumour
Smaller fish cope better with acidic water
Lunar mirror mystery solved
Parents give fewer bad genes than thought
Women on pill may live longer
Antarctic winds affect key ocean layer
Researchers uncover thalidomide mystery
Boost for evidence of early ocean
Ocean geoengineering may prove lethal
People leave unique 'germ print'
Rogue star on collision course
Butterflies 'fly early as planet warms'
Glaucoma may start in the brain
Tools push back dates for humans on Flores
Stem cell capsules to target broken bones
Ecstasy damages complex memory: study
Earliest animals flexed their muscles
Insomnia may shrink the brain: study
Experts call for 'resilience thinking'
Tutu's DNA could point to medical cures
Humble algae key to whale evolution
Happiness linked to healthy heart
Fewer cyclones, but more intense: study
Cosmic candles result of colliding stars
Flightless mosquitoes may curb dengue
Childhood poverty may leave its mark
Cautious response to technology strategy
Nanowire RAM to make ever-ready computers
Are non-smokers smarter than smokers?
There's iron in them thar Martian hills
'Shell Crusher' shark swam ancient oceans
Nanotechnology may tap into your mind
Small dogs originated in the Middle East
Brain 'hears' sound of silence
Swimmers 'may not understand' tsunami risk
Altruism surfaces on slow-sinking ship
Chile quake tops Haiti, but less deadly
Weedkiller 'makes boy frogs lay eggs'
Visit Statistics