Cambridge Figures Out How to Move Data in 3D, Uses Magnetic Spin

An experimental chip uses magnetic field manipulation to send information

Processors are still stuck in the 2D era, so to speak, making it truly wondrous that they can cram so many billion transistors in their small packages. Scientists may have finally figured out how to go 3D though.

Like so many other things, chips with 3D elements aren't a new idea. The concept has existed for quite a long time.

There has just not been any viable means of implementing them. The data transfers were too low, the costs of implementing a procedure were too high, the data volume possible to process would be insufficient. Many reasons.

Now though, scientists from the University of Cambridge believe they have figured out how to move data in 3D.

An experimental chip sandwiches a layer of ruthenium atoms between cobalt and platinum.

Thanks to those layers, data can be moved up and down a silicon-based design through something called spintronics.

Basically, information is sent across the ruthenium to its destination through magnetic field manipulation.

The experimental technique is called “sputtering” and yields a “club-sandwich on a silicon chip of cobalt, platinum and ruthenium atoms.”

“Today’s chips are like bungalows – everything happens on the same floor. We’ve created the stairways allowing information to pass between floors,” said Dr. Reinoud Lavrijsen, an author on the paper from the University of Cambridge.

In layman terms, the cobalt and platinum atoms store data much like a hard drive does, while the ruthenium atoms act as messengers.

And with each material layer being just a few atoms-thick, the transfer is done quickly indeed.

A laser technique called MOKE is employed to probe the data content of the different layers from bottom to top.

The 3D information transfer technology should benefit both central processing units and storage devices.

“Traditionally, we would use a series of electronic transistors to move data like this. We’ve been able to achieve the same effect just by combining different basic elements such as cobalt, platinum and ruthenium,” said Professor Russell Cowburn, lead researcher of the study from the Cavendish Laboratory, the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physics.

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