Researchers at IBM and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology recently confirmed theoretical predictions made four years earlier by Butler and his colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Tulane University.
As lead author of the paper published in Physical Review, Butler performed computer calculations for a previously unknown electronic structure that incorporates multi atom-sized layers of iron and magnesium oxide, with an insulating barrier in between.
The discoveries have renewed excitement in the mad dash among manufacturers to develop a new type of magnetic memory, called MRAM, that many believe will one day replace DRAM as the computer industry's standard memory.
"There's a lot of excitement, but there is still not a product out there you can buy. A technology that is beautiful to the scientist does not always make it to the market," he said. Electronics manufacturers are banking that it will. Thanks in part to Butler's predictions, some of the industry's leading companies have signed on as sponsors of UA's MINT center. Among them are IBM, Seagate, Fujitsu, Sony, Hitachi-Maxell, Canon Anelva, and Toshiba.
Hideo Fujiwara, a research scientist and adjunct professor at MINT involved in the MRAM project, worked at Hitachi for 21 years before moving to its subsidiary, Hitachi-Maxell. He said the recent experiments confirming Butler's predictions have created quite a buzz in the industry.