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IBM and Stanford to put a spin on processors

May 06, 20042 mins
Data CenterIBM

* IBM, Stanford University working on processors that use magnetism

IBM and Stanford University formed a nanotechnology group last week to create prototype CPUs that use magnetism rather than electrical charges.

The companies formed the IBM-Stanford Spintronics Center to study how to advance processor technology. Today’s processors use electrical charges to perform computations. This technology is reaching its performance limits and as processors get faster, and it is causing excessive heat.

The new technology, called “spintronics,” would control how electrons are physically aligned and cause two possible magnetic states: on and off.

IBM and Stanford predict that spintronics could result in processors that will give five to 10 more years of performance gains. They hope to see commercial products in five to 10 years as well.

Other nanotechnology-based projects have taken as long. For instance, magnetic RAM (MRAM), which may ship as soon as next year, has been researched for nine years. MRAM is expected to be less expensive and perform faster than current DRAM and static RAM. Both IBM and Infineon will develop MRAM.

IBM’s first spintronics product was a hard drive technology called the giant magneto-resistive head (GMR). GMR, which has been used since 1997, gave a 40x capacity increase over previous drive technologies.

The project, which consists of 25 scientists and engineers at both IBM and Stanford, will be housed at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, the site of many of IBM’s advanced technology research.

Funding for the project will also come from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.