Researchers of the Institute of Photonic Integration of the Technical University of Eindhoven, the Netherlands have revealed new technology to store data. Their technology uses laser pulses and combines the advantages of light and magnetic storage. The researchers claim their technology is revolutionary and is 1,000x faster than any other currently available storage technology.
Researchers Mark Lalieu, Reinoud Lavrijs and Bert Koopmans have published their findings in Nature. They explain that their technology works by ultra-short laser pulses that make it possible to storage data directly in magnetic storage in a very fast and power-efficient way.
Currently, disk access times are measured in milliseconds. The new technology uses laser pulses that are measured in femtoseconds. To understand how fast such a pulse is compared to current access times, a millisecond is 1,000,000,000,000 femtoseconds. Each pulse changes the magnetic direction of a very tiny region of magnetic material. Such a region is called a magnetic domain.
By changing the direction of the magnetic domain with laser pulses, it’s possible to store bits, represented as either 1 or 0.
The magnetic material of which the magnetic domains are made, is what makes the technology different. This material is called synthetic ferrimagnet and with this material it’s possible to store a single bit with a single laser pulse lasting a femtosecond, which makes writing the data both energy-efficient and fast.
Researcher Mark Lalieu explains, “This way of storing data is about 100 to 1,000 times faster than possible with today’s technology. Besides that, because the optical information is stored in magnetic bits, without requiring any immediate energy-consuming electronics, this has enormous potential for future usage in photonic computer chips.”
The researchers combined the laser with so-called racetrack memory. This is a magnetic wire where data, in the form of magnetic bits, is transported with the help of an electric current. In this memory, the magnetic bits are continuously written by laser pulses. Once the bits are written, they are immediately moved over the wire through electric current. When the written bit is moved, it frees space, so the system can store another bit, generating a continuous stream of data.
The researchers explain that their method of ‘on the fly’ copying of data using the magnetic racetracks, is like “jumping back and forth between two high-speed trains, instead of transferring to another train on a station.”
“You can imagine how much faster and power-efficient it is,” the researchers add.
In their current research project they used micro wires, in order to work with computer chips these wires need to be shrunk to nano scale. The researchers are also working on a way of reading (magnetic) data with light/lasers.