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Nanomagnets Could Replace Transistors in Microprocessors

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 years ago | from the remember-when-moore's-law-failed dept.

Science 91

redwolfe7707 writes "Computers today move electrons, using lots of energy in the process. A new report out of UC Berkeley shows that doing computing with nano magnetic domains could reduce the energy consumption by a factor of a million." As usual, the factor of a million would be in the ideal case and is close to the minimum permitted by the universe.

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91 comments

And clock speeds by same factor (-1, Troll)

foxenoxen2 (2343724) | about 3 years ago | (#36671346)

Really, nanomagnets idea was tried [aeonity.com] before, and doesn't work well.

Re:And clock speeds by same factor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671390)

BAN HIM!

Re:And clock speeds by same factor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671422)

That would be goatse.

Dammit (4, Funny)

LordKaT (619540) | about 3 years ago | (#36671350)

Goddamn Universe! Stop treating us like we're kids! We want over a million factor reduction in our power usage! Imma go in a corner and cry :'(

Re:Dammit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671486)

It will still be over 9000

This is offtopic. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671502)

LK is on Slashdot! Why am I so surprised by this?

Re:Dammit (1, Offtopic)

dainbug (678555) | about 3 years ago | (#36671690)

De-Regulate!

Re:Dammit (1)

gyroidben (1223170) | about 3 years ago | (#36674884)

In the universe's defense, that limit does not apply to reversible computing [wikipedia.org] . As long as your logic gates aren't destroying any information then there is in principle no minimum energy requirement.

Re:Dammit (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about 3 years ago | (#36676968)

Too bad physical reversible computing hardware isn't practical. You still need non-reversible guts outside of it to track state, and reversible hardware typically can't do things like arbitrary-length loops.

As usual (1)

Ltap (1572175) | about 3 years ago | (#36671352)

It's only 5 years away!

Re:As usual (2)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | about 3 years ago | (#36671382)

I'm sure the start-up who wrote up the amazing summary and want investors' money also want us to believe that traditional memory will be all but dead when this comes to market. And that this is a total game changer for the entire memory industry. "Disruptive Technology" blah blah blah...

Re:As usual (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 years ago | (#36671428)

I'm sure the start-up who wrote up the amazing summary and want investors' money also want us to believe that traditional memory will be all but dead when this comes to market. And that this is a total game changer for the entire memory industry. "Disruptive Technology" blah blah blah...

I think if you came out with technology using one million times less energy, all of that would be true, no? Hell, even a factor of 100 or 1000 I should think would be a rather huge gain.

Bring on the 5v supercomputer!

Re:As usual (2)

d4fseeker (1896770) | about 3 years ago | (#36671752)

You would need very thick layers and cables of copper at 5v, but it's feasible. I guess you mean 5VA, that would be a real achievement ;)

Re:As usual (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 years ago | (#36672374)

You would need very thick layers and cables of copper at 5v, but it's feasible. I guess you mean 5VA, that would be a real achievement ;)

Yeah ... this is the part where I admit I know exceedingly little about the physical aspects of electronics other than my high school physics, which was over two decades ago. :-P

So ... if you say so, then that must have been what I meant. ;-)

Re:As usual (2)

PhxBlue (562201) | about 3 years ago | (#36675952)

Bring on the 5v supercomputer!

Pah. Wake me when they get the requirement down to 1.1 volts. I'm not going to be happy until my supercomputer can fit into a potato!

Re:As usual (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | about 3 years ago | (#36671524)

It's called venture capital for a reason.

venture (noun) : an undertaking involving chance, risk, or danger; especially : a speculative business enterprise

Re:As usual (1)

IrquiM (471313) | about 3 years ago | (#36680082)

Stop ruining it with facts!

Re:As usual (1)

flibbidyfloo (451053) | about 3 years ago | (#36671442)

It's only 5 years away!

So we should have it 5 years before fusion power!

Re:As usual (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#36671818)

So we should have it 5 years before fusion power!

And only 10 years before flying cars!

Re:As usual (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#36671834)

And only 10 years before flying cars!

And a mere 15 years before the first american on Mars

Re:As usual (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 3 years ago | (#36672632)

You people make me sad. :'(

Re:As usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36673734)

I could make a joke about fat americans and mars bars, but i won't.

Re:As usual (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about 3 years ago | (#36673506)

Re:As usual (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#36699774)

Oh yea, you can't throw a stone without hitting a dozen of the damn things.

Re:As usual (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#36671756)

and as usual, another buzzword-using ad from one of "The Big Universities". Being from one, though, apparently allows for the publication of back-of-the-envelope calculations papers, while the rest have to submit and correct ad infinitum.

It is like the US Patent Office and Amazon: if you work with amazon and file a patent it gets processed immediately no matter what- else, go queue up with the rest of the peasants.

Re:As usual (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 3 years ago | (#36672570)

The USPO doesn't have queues. We have lines. ;)

Re:As usual (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | about 3 years ago | (#36672298)

Of course we all know that computing technology is static and changes only at geologic time scales. Don't hold your breath waiting for anything new.

Re:As usual (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 3 years ago | (#36673512)

Anybody promissing to go from idea to widespread maket in less than 14 years in computing technology (by that I mean hardware manufacturing) is a liar.

A problem... (3, Funny)

ijakings (982830) | about 3 years ago | (#36671358)

Isnt it going to be more difficult to create a microprocessor with magnets? I mean nobody knows how they work...

Re:A problem... (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | about 3 years ago | (#36671616)

No, no, no. Everyone knows how magnets work (also microwave ovens), it's non-fat dairy creamer than nobody know how works.

Re:A problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36672526)

Non-fat dairy creamer is easy.
The really tricky one is low calorie energy bars.

Re:A problem... (1)

ijakings (982830) | about 3 years ago | (#36674044)

Crème fraiche?

Re:A problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671700)

Who cares about HOW, just be glad they work as they do, and use them!

Re:A problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36672068)

Nobody knows how magnets work. That's a fact.

bullshit, well known (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#36672698)

they work by the exchange of photons created and absorbed by accelerating charges.

Re:A problem... (1)

robot_love (1089921) | about 3 years ago | (#36673386)

It sounds awesome. Now, by holding a cell phone next to your ear it will make you healthy instead of giving you cancer!

Small print: only theoretical (-1, Troll)

tuxright (2347262) | about 3 years ago | (#36671400)

Really, nanomagnets idea was tried before, but there are fundamental [thoughts.com] physics problems with it.

Link Warning!!!! Not for those at work.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671456)

or of a nervous disposition, or even those bored with the stupid Goatse image.

Goatse (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671458)

parent is Goatse

Re:Small print: only theoretical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671466)

You really don't want to click the fundamental link, you'll be scarred for life.

Re:Small print: only theoretical (0, Offtopic)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 3 years ago | (#36671468)

Now *that* is how you goatse. Even got me, and I'm an oldfag.

Re:Small print: only theoretical (-1, Offtopic)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 3 years ago | (#36671496)

Even got me, and I'm an oldfag.

As a good fag, you should enjoy that picture!

Re:Small print: only theoretical (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 years ago | (#36672008)

For those of us who don't speak 4Chan, what does 'oldfag' mean? You're user id is over a million, so you've not exactly been here for a long time, and the grandparent has been posting goatse links (including two others in this story) like that for months, so if you clicked on it then I can only assume 'oldfag' means 'idiot'.

Re:Small print: only theoretical (1)

Canazza (1428553) | about 3 years ago | (#36672336)

Well, my User ID is well over the 1 million too (and about 300k more than Turtles) and I've been here for a couple of years. I'd hardly consider that an 'oldfag' though.
I came here just as /. started to decline and it's been long enough for me to notice a marked difference and to be annoyed about it, so maybe that's his definition of an 'oldfag' - been here long enough to feel entitled to complain about the decline in quality, yet do nothing about it.

Re:Small print: only theoretical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36674526)

4chanfags justfag putfag fagfag tofag thefag endfag offag eachfag wordfag

Re:Small print: only theoretical (1)

rednip (186217) | about 3 years ago | (#36675802)

I came here just as /. started to decline...

yea, me too.

Re:Small print: only theoretical (1)

Alex Belits (437) | about 3 years ago | (#36676208)

No, I did.

Re:Small print: only theoretical (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 3 years ago | (#36674728)

In the first place, I mean 'oldfag' in the 4chan sense, as in I've been around 4chan and before that SomethingAwful when both sites were new, and I'm proud of not having any life to speak of. Further, although my /. UID is not low, that's because I only signed up when I saw there were going to be parties for the 10th Anniversary and I wanted to go. I'd been lurking /. since 1998.

Technology evolves (2)

Biggseye (1520195) | about 3 years ago | (#36671432)

This is an interesting development. If it works out, great. If it does not work out, they learn from the failure. All technology must by its nature evolve or become outmoded and worthless. As we know Computers are the poster child for technology evolution. Many more attempts to approve computers, faster, more memory, faster disks, etc have failed then succeeded. To me it does not matter if it works, IT would be nice if it did, but it is not earth shaking if it fails.

Fucking Nanomagnets. (2, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | about 3 years ago | (#36671440)

How do they work?

How magnets work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671698)

They use FM.

* You know.... fucking magic.

Re:How magnets work. (1)

Ramin_HAL9001 (1677134) | about 3 years ago | (#36773754)

They're miracles, that's how they work. Just pray real hard and your data will be computerd.
Take an logic-invert circuit (NOT-gate) for example: zero goes in, one comes out, never a miscommunication -- you can't explain that.

Re:Fucking Nanomagnets. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671824)

are they monopole thingies ?

That's easy! (1)

Pope (17780) | about 3 years ago | (#36673140)

Fucking nanomiracles.

Re:That's easy! (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | about 3 years ago | (#36673496)

Wouldn't that be under the jurisdiction of the nanoPope?

Small print: only theoretical (-1, Troll)

tuxrightagain (2347312) | about 3 years ago | (#36671556)

Really, nanomagnets idea was tried before, but there are fundamental [tinyurl.com] physics problems with it.

Re:Small print: only theoretical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671592)

Warning: Parent has a goatse link.

Re:Small print: only theoretical (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#36671928)

Oh no Jack I am not clicking that

Everyone knows it's spelled... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671566)

Berzerkeley!!!

Magnetic therapy (0)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36671568)

Flakes of the future: "hold your arthritic wrist up against the magnetic CPU while running this program". "Here is a bracelet consisting of 16 broken, yet magnetic PIC microcontrollers (oh sorry, I forgot microcontrollers did not exist before the ardweeno)"

That and I'm curious how the curie limit would affect those little things. The smaller they get the smaller the volume to hold heat, although the surface area to volume ratio improves as they shrink...

uhm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671572)

how do you turn off a magnet?

Re:uhm.. (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | about 3 years ago | (#36671630)

Saltpeter?

Re:uhm.. (1)

dainbug (678555) | about 3 years ago | (#36671730)

With a BIGGER magnet! of course.

Re:uhm.. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#36672716)

heat it above its curie temperature

APPLE AND STEVE REAMED BY EXPLOIT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671598)

Right in the This way to the colon hole !! Well played, JB !! When will those two ever learn !!

Small print: only theoretical: (-1, Troll)

tuxright2 (2347324) | about 3 years ago | (#36671608)

Really, nanomagnets idea was tried before, but there are fundamental [aeonity.com] physics problems with it.

Re:Small print: only theoretical: (-1, Offtopic)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36671692)

GOATSE.
Did not click link, but that is all this tuxright fellow posts.

h4rr4r posts Goatse links! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671776)

No, thats what h4rr4r posts using his suck-puppet accounts.
I have seen him comment on the 'Goatse' links few times.
And since its highly unlikely that I have seen all Goatse links posted by him, and I see that he comments on them again, it must be him.

Re:h4rr4r posts Goatse links! (0)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36671808)

This is the only account I have ever had on slashdot. I have never posted a link to those images.

I suggest you are the one posting them, then making these claims when I warn people about what you are doing.

Re:Small print: only theoretical: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36671810)

Man you made me barf .... disgusting little fellow the GOATSE Guy

Yawn (1)

davegravy (1019182) | about 3 years ago | (#36671914)

devices become more susceptible to random fluctuations from thermal effects, stray electromagnetic fields and other kinds of noise

Yes, I'm imagining a big sticker on my new magnetronic iphone, depicting a big horseshoe magnet with a diagonal line through it. Airport security suddenly has to have a separate X-ray-less inspection line for portable magnetronics.

At the moment, electrical currents are used to generate a magnetic field to erase or flip the polarity of nanomagnets, which dissipates a lot of energy. Ideally, new materials will make electrical currents unnecessary, except perhaps for relaying information from one chip to another

Nanomagnets are hardly impressive, everything is being made "nano" these days.
Efficient and reliable CONTROL of magnetic fields (e.g without moving electrons in an electromagnet) seems to be the critical missing piece to this puzzle.

Re:Yawn (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#36671986)

Nanomagnets are hardly impressive, everything is being made "nano" these days. Efficient and reliable CONTROL of magnetic fields (e.g without moving electrons in an electromagnet) seems to be the critical missing piece to this puzzle.

Exactly! Unless your back-of-the-envelope calculations are affiliated with one of MIT, Berkeley or Yale, in which case they are immediately eligible for publication.

But how will information be transmitted? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 3 years ago | (#36672048)

Ok , data could be stored as a magnetic alignment, but how do you get that information from one side of the chip to the other when you need to actually use it? You can't transmit magnetism down a wire and if you use electrons then you're still going to have a large amount of wasted energy.

Re:But how will information be transmitted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36672144)

Coupled domains. One flips, which makes the next flip, which makes the next flip... it'd be very sensitive though, you'd have to put the processor inside a little box of mu-metal.

Re:But how will information be transmitted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36672332)

The speed must be that of a snail compared to electrons. And..... imagine all the shielding you will need from foreign magnetic fields!

Re:But how will information be transmitted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36675666)

Electrons in a wire only move along on the order of 10^-5 m/s; that doesn't mean the signal can't propagate at a significant fraction of c, though.

Re:But how will information be transmitted? (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 3 years ago | (#36673670)

I think they were going for the calculate then transmit idea. That means only going in/out require the electrons as opposed to the present, in/out and calculate. The overwhelming majority of electrons suffer their fate during the calculate portion. Are we going to get the napkin research results hinted at? No. But if we can achieve even an order of magnitude reduction in power costs it's still "game changing" significant.

Re:But how will information be transmitted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36674392)

"You can't transmit magnetism down a wire" -- maybe you should look at racetrack memory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racetrack_memory).

Re:But how will information be transmitted? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 3 years ago | (#36676046)

"You can't transmit magnetism down a wire" -- maybe you should look at racetrack memory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racetrack_memory).

Or perhaps this old thing ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_memory [wikipedia.org]

Leaping into the 1970's here. Should we have another academic to "invent" plated-wire memory next?

How long (1)

xlovenuggetx (955961) | about 3 years ago | (#36672330)

I like to imagine that I stay informed on science/tech stories and it seems like everyday I read about new tech and innovations.... but they never seem to be implemented in a desirable timeline. How come the big power consumers like Google, IBM and Microsoft haven't thrown loads of cash into these types of innovations? Early investments would certainly pay off in the long run- a million fold in energy efficiancy isn't good enough I guess.

Re:How long (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#36672732)

eh?, IBM is of course doing massive amounts of research on lower power computation devices, one of the global leaders in the field

Speed? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 3 years ago | (#36672598)

I see no mention of CPU speed. I'm guessing it wouldn't be that great.

Re:Speed? (1)

singer-scientist (956421) | about 3 years ago | (#36683688)

I see no mention of CPU speed. I'm guessing it wouldn't be that great.

Yes, there are other limits to computing. [cam.ac.uk]

Specifically the energy/time version of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle [wikipedia.org] . At the limit of observability, if you reduce the energy, then you increase the time. So, measurable low-energy operations are going to take a relatively long time to complete.

Complex devices yet? (1)

michael_cain (66650) | about 3 years ago | (#36672912)

I know people have demonstrated magnetic domain nand and nor gates, which is theoretically sufficient to build anything. Has anyone demonstrated more complex devices? A synchronous shift register? An adder? Something that demonstrates that linking many gates together is viable?

In other news... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 3 years ago | (#36672936)

Reality hacked by Anonymous. Universe found to be resting on back of large turtle. Film at 11:00.

Re:In other news... (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about 3 years ago | (#36673524)

OMG, There are turtles all the way down!

Re:In other news... (2)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 3 years ago | (#36673950)

Reports have started to trickle in from outlying areas stating that "The turtle stands on its own back." The turtle, in an exclusive interview with our reporters, refused to confirm or deny this, stating that it was a "personal" matter and that his first obligation was to shield his family of child universes from embarrassment.

Does this mean... (1)

ndixon (184723) | about 3 years ago | (#36680568)

... I could get a smartphone that will last a whole week on a charge?

Low energy means slow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36683464)

There are other limits to computation [cam.ac.uk] .

Wouldn't a low energy computer be extremely slow?

According to the energy/time version of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle [wikipedia.org] , a small uncertainty in energy would mean a large uncertainty in time. Any measurable operation close to this limit would take an extremely long time to complete.

I'll believe it when I see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36688974)

They've been saying this for 10 years. It's never going to happen. They just want more money for funding research.

Should We Tell Them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36689114)

That the 1,000,000X reduction in power doesn't take into acount the power consumption to control the surroundings of the magnets? Those nanomagnets would be pretty susceptible to changes in external fields I would think.

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