Magnet Provides Promise for Electronics Advances

Shiny, black magnetic films, about the size of a penny and made by University of Alabama researchers, are central to a discovery of how to conduct resistance-free electricity in a manner previously thought impossible.
The research, conducted by scientists at Brown University, the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and UA, provides promising new leads for future electronics development and will publish in the Feb.16 issue of Nature.
Scientists have demonstrated the ability to sandwich the magnetic material, chromium dioxide, between two superconductors in a way that allows an electrical current to pass through the magnetic material, while retaining the resistance-free benefits of the superconductors.
The discovery could also assist researchers in their efforts to bring MRAM, a new type of experimental computer memory, to market. Unlike today’s standard memory, MRAM requires no extensive boot-up process and uses less power than conventional memory. It is also non-volatile, so if there’s a sudden power outage it would “remember” its state, preventing the computer user from losing data. Sensors, known as magnetic tunnel junction devices, are essential components in devices that might one day feature this next generation of computer memory.
The announcement in the Nature article could be another step toward making MRAM a reality for the average computer user. “If we are able to expand this and make magnetic tunnel junction devices, you will see extremely large changes in resistance,” Gupta said.
The experiments announced in Nature were performed under extremely low temperature conditions. Temperatures much lower than room temperature are the only known conditions under which superconductors provide no resistance. Gupta says achieving similar results under room temperature conditions would be industry-altering.

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Posted: Feb 15,2006 by Ron Mertens