Semiconductors: A Thing of the Past?
On December 3rd, researchers from Intel Corporation and UC Berkeley published a paper in the popular science journal Nature, proposing an idea for a new kind of memory and logic circuit which could be 10 to 100 times more energy-efficient than current microprocessors. The microprocessors we have today are based off complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors (CMOS). These new devices are magneto-electric spin-orbit (MESO) and feature five times more logic operations than their older counterparts.
The MESOs will have the capability to advance current technologies with higher computing power while using less energy. These devices will be used most frequently in machinery like drones and self-driving cars. But, as Sasikanth Manipatruni, who leads hardware development for the MESO project at Intel’s Components Research Group puts it,
“As CMOS develops into its maturity, we will basically have very powerful technology options that see us through. In some ways, this could continue computing improvements for another whole generation of people.”
The researchers go on to describe how they were able to reduce the voltage required for multiferroic magneto-electric switching from 3 volts down to 500 millivolts. This is a reduction to only 1/6th the original voltage, which means a lot less energy is being used.
Multiferroics are materials which exhibit more than one ferric property: ferromagnetism, ferroelectricity, and ferroelasticity. MESO is a multiferroic material because it contains bismuth, iron, and oxygen (BiFeO3), which is a combination of ferromagnetic and ferroelectric states. Researchers believe it is important to take advantage of these two states together by altering the magnetic field because in doing so, you can change the MESO’s entire magnetic state.
Intel and Berkeley’s researchers are working hard to create technology which is not just bigger and better, but that will be innovative enough to propel us into a more sustainable and energy-efficient future. And with the creation of the MESO, they believe they’ve taken the first step to do just that.