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ACM TechNews

Physicists Nudge Electrons, Move Toward Crazy-Fast Computers

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A laser beam switching the magnetic structure of a magnetic material.

By pulsing a laser on magnetic material, researchers switched its magnetic structure in a quadrillionth of a second, paving the way for faster computers.

Credit: Ames Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

Ames Laboratory researchers have nudged electrons to change their spin in just quadrillionths of a second, the fastest time ever achieved and a breakthrough that could lead to faster computer processing and storage.

The research has implications for the development of spintronics technology, which relies on rapidly switching magnetic fields to control both the spin and the electrical charge of electrons to store data. "We may expect faster writing in hard drives and faster reading and writing in [computer memory] with even less power used," says Ames scientist Jigang Wang.

The researchers shone super-short pulses of laser light on an unusual magnetic material, bumping the atoms in the material into an excited state and changing their spins. Their big breakthrough was being able to achieve this about a thousand times faster than current technology.

Wang says the technology eventually could be used to show very fast high-definition movies.

From Live Science
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