back to article We can change a bit from 0 to 1 WITHOUT CURRENT, say boffins

There could be some iron in the non-volatile soul. A team of Cornell university boffins using bismuth ferrite have discovered a way to store bits on magnets without needing electric current-based switching. Their room-temperature magnetoelectric memory device has 2-step magnetic switchability "with nothing but an electric …

  1. Quentin North

    Core store!

    On a very small scale. And without the electrical overhead.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Core store!

      Yeah, first they chipitise it then they monotise it.

  2. Mike 140

    All our yesteryears

    Ferrite core memory? That takes me back to my younger days. Will they discover mercury delay lines next?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All our yesteryears

      As Alan Turing worked out, gin would work about as well as mercury. I guess the Civil Service either (a) thought it would be stolen or (b) got a much bigger kickback from the mercury suppliers.

      Do you remember the glass delay lines in PAL sets?

      1. Mike 140

        Re: All our yesteryears

        No, glass is a new one on me. I only go back as far as LEO II.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: All our yesteryears

          PAL colour TV sets used a glass delay line to store a single scan row. I think this was probably the world's major use of delay lines. It considerably postdates LEO II. The delay line used a fundamental of 4.43MHz, so the clock rate was much too high for early computers.

  3. Frederic Bloggs


    The headline picture was a blast from the past. It appears to be one of the ferrite core memory modules from an ICT1301 (circa 1961). That brings back very happy memories. Thank you.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "2-step magnetic switchability "with nothing but an electric field". It doesn't need voltage to turn it on."

    A voltage implies an electric field, since it is a potential between 2 points and so there must be a field between those points.

    The article seems to suggest that a PD is needed, but no current (other than that to establish the PD obviously).

    Ramble - the photograph reminds me of how much more interesting electronics looked back in the day. A board full of 2N404s and a core store look such a lot more purposeful than a bit of plastic covered in little black bugs.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: ?

      @A t l

      I came to the comment section with my copy-and-paste buffer containing essentially the exact same string as your quote.

      Well done.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: ?


        Presumably they mean "less current" required (to the point of being hardly detectable) rather than "no current".

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: ?

          Yup, there must be some energy expenditure, i.e. current. Otherwise that ferrite thing won't change its state (if it did it with no energy expenditure, it would be unstable and not a good memory-holding physical device). Also, Landauer's Principle asserts "that there is a minimum possible amount of energy required to erase one bit of information, known as the Landauer limit: kT ln 2", i.e. 0.0178 eV at room temperature.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ?

            To complete the circle, 0.0178 eV is the energy dissipated when a charge equal to 1 electron charge falls through a potential difference of 0.0178V. Current, voltage.

            It is left as an exercise for the reader to show that this is the minimum noise energy that can be detected by an audiophile using those loudspeaker cables with directional arrows on them.

            1. Rampant Spaniel

              Re: ?


              Do the cables have gold plated connectors? :)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: ?

                Audiophiles might expect it, but real junk scientists know that the hydrogen released in gold plating causes noise at the interface. True audiophile connections must be made by bolting the unidirectional cables to the terminal posts using drawn OFHC copper bolts, and the joint must be kept in an argon atmosphere to eliminate the noise caused by cable oxidation. At 0K, so that the noise of the argon atoms hitting the cable doesn't cause signal degradation.

                My worry? One day I'm going to write some stuff like this and it will end up in an audiophile magazine.

                1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: ?

                  but real junk scientists know

                  Worth all the 1.21 gigawatts one can muster. Have an upvote.

  5. Hans 1 Silver badge

    Nano scale ?

    Hey, where did you put that 8 terabyte memory chip? Now, go get me the microscope, we need to find it quickly.

  6. MatsSvensson

    So you don't need any current to read/write, except the current that powers the electronics that makes the read/write happen?

    Well done...

    Now to make it so small that it can fit on the worlds largest pinhead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem with core store

      Core store not only needed a fair old write current, but the readout is destructive, so every read cycle needs to be a read-modify-write even if just a read is wanted.

      The old PDP-8, which was of that era, had a read-and-clear operation (DCA) which was quick simply because it was just a destructive read, but usually with core you are reading two operands, and replacing one with a new value, so a minimum of 2 reads and 2 writes is required.

      However, the time for which core could retain its state was impressive. I remember removing an ancient PDP-11 from storage (we actually wanted the power supply) where it had lain unwanted for years, and out of curiosity firing up, whereupon it executed the last program it had held, leaving off from where it had shut down. No wonder they use core in the guidance computers of ICBMs.

      1. oldcoder

        Re: The problem with core store

        :) DCA was Deposit and Clear Accumulator...

        The only reason it was quick was that the "Deposit" was a write. No need for the read.

    2. breakfast

      Why do you want to put it on the dude out of Hellraiser?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Clear a Ferroybte instead of a Cenobite.

  7. steward

    This would be much more interesting from the IT angle

    if some sort of time-to-market had been gleaned.

    Are we looking at 200 TB SSDs in a year for 40 quid, or 10 TB SSDs in 3 years for 60 quid?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      It'll be about 20 years.

      It's a lab experiment at the moment!

      More seriously, this kind of thing tends to take 5-10 years to either reach the market or discover that it can't be made reliable enough/cheap enough to be marketable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It'll be about 20 years.

        Bubble memory. One of the coolest technologies out, a brilliant concept, but it just didn't scale. And Esaki diodes, which were dead in the water once i2l came along - and that too lost its niche once SOS arrived.

        The history of computing must be littered with more brilliant concepts that turned into dead ends, in a shorter timeframe, than anything else.

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Our future is in the past...

    Keep anything magnetic away from the memory. All static generators including nylon clothing is forbidden. Faraday cage shielding please. I know I'm forgetting some more "don'ts" for this stuff but it's been a long time passing.

  9. DougS Silver badge


    Another cool memory technology that we'll hear about from time to time over the years that will never amount to anything.

    Am I becoming cynical, having heard about bubble memory as a kid and about a dozen other fabulous technologies since from whatever that holographic disc technology was to IBM's racetrack to phase change memory that was supposed to be the next big thing a decade ago. The one out of all of them that sounded the least promising, flash, is the only one that has had any impact in my day to day life.

    So forgive me if I fail to be as excited as some of the rest of you seem.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Got to say that I unfortunately agree.

      20 years from now we'll be seeing zilch based on this tech. Maybe, some time in the next 50 years, we'll hear of some new tech "soon to be put into production" that will base itself on some variant of this discovery, but it's in the lab right now and there's no guarantee that it'll ever be getting out in any form we can easily associate with this tech in its current form.

      There are literally hundreds of stumbling blocks before this gets into a finished product, the least of them being strictly technical in nature. There will be power plays, there will be infighting, influence wars and outright patent buying with the risk that the buyer has no intent of actually producing because it harms an existing production line.

      So, yeah, this sounds interesting, but there's a whole forest of knives to walk barefoot through before ever seeing a price tag on something using it.

  10. Stretch


    "the canting of the antiferromagnetically aligned spins by the Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya (DM) interaction"

    Ahh now its clear. Obviously.


  11. roger stillick

    Q= what real life does to these magnetic arrays...

    Electronic devices in the homes around me has rendered AM /SSB Radio reception at any frequency useless due to all the noise generated by those uncountable digital devices operating 24x7x365...

    Joke Alert= random electromagnetic noise has a voltage component by any of Maxwell's Field eqiations...

    Q= how is the voltage component of background noise different from a programming voltage that is advertised as very low ??

    IMHO= we went from ferrite everything to get the ferrite out of everything as non-linear magnetic devices were inherently unstable...RS.

    1. oldcoder

      Re: Q= what real life does to these magnetic arrays...

      Took all the ferrite out because it was SLOW.

  12. oldcoder

    With extra low power required to change the state ALSO implies that an even smaller EMP can wipe it out.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

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