New Circuit Created By Engineers Requires No Electricity

MIT engineers created a new circuit design that uses magnetic waves instead of electricity.
Donna Fuscaldo
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Electronics has a new rival on the scene: magnetic waves, which are getting one step closer to being able to compute much more efficiently than today's computers.  

Engineers at the Masshuttets Institute of Technology developed a circuit design that enables the precise control of computing using magnetic waves instead of electronics. Their work could pave the way toward a new crop of computers that do their job much more efficiently.  Their work was published in the journal Science


Computers require a lot of electricity

As it stands computers require a lot of electricity to compute information and store all the data they collect. They also give off a lot of heat. That's prompted research work in coming up with an alternative. One that's popular among researchers is using magnetic spin waves instead of electricity. 

Over the years researchers have created magnetic-based spintronic devices that don't require much in the way of electricity and don't generate heat. Spintronic devices work by tweaking the spin-wave properties so that they produce something that can be measured and correlated to computation. 

Spin waves, which are bursts of energy with small wavelengths, throw off chunks that are called magnons. Magnons aren't particles like electrons, but they can be measured for computing.  In order to modulate the spin-wave, researchers are required to inject electrical currents. But doing that requires extra components and causes signal noise, canceling out any performance gains. 

To overcome that, the MIT engineers created a circuit architecture that uses a nanometer-wide domain wall in layered nanofilms of magnetic material to change the spin-wave as it passes. As a result, there isn't a need for extra components nor the electrical current.  The spin-wave can be changed to control where the nanometer wall is located, creating two changing spin waves that correlate with 1s and 0s. 

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Circuit that uses magnetic domain wall instead of electricity.
MIT's magnetic wave circuit. Source: MIT 

Wave computing becoming a reality 

“People are beginning to look for computing beyond silicon. Wave computing is a promising alternative,” says Luqiao Liu, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and principal investigator of the Spintronic Material and Device Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics said in a press release highlighting the work. “By using this narrow domain wall, we can modulate the spin-wave and create these two separate states, without any real energy costs. We just rely on spin waves and intrinsic magnetic material.”

The circuitry created by the MIT engineers could enable wave-based computing for specific tasks such as "fast Fourier transform," which MIT said is a signal-processing technique. The team is now aiming to build a wave circuit that can execute basic computations.