Spin Memory Shows Its Might

Spin-transfer-torque MRAM could edge out some mainstream memories

4 min read
Spin Memory Shows Its Might
Spin’s Golden Moment: TDK-Headway’s 8-megabit test chip stores bits in microscopic magnetic pillars and can be written to at record speeds.
Image: TDK-Headway Technologies

The read head of a hard-disk drive might seem an unlikely place to hunt for the future of memory technology. But TDK-Headway Technologies, in Milpitas, Calif., is betting that the lowly magnetic tunnel junction—the device it makes to read data off hard-disk platters—could be redesigned and repackaged to create a new way of storing information.

Magnetoresistive random-access memory, or MRAM, has undergone a few incarnations already. But TDK-Headway and a number of other companies are now converging on a scheme they say could upend the memory business. Dubbed spin-transfer torque (STT) MRAM, it promises speed and reliability comparable to that of static random-access memory, or SRAM—the quick-access memory embedded inside microprocessors—along with the “nonvolatility” of flash, the storage of smartphones and other portables.

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A Circuit to Boost Battery Life

Digital low-dropout voltage regulators will save time, money, and power

11 min read
Image of a battery held sideways by pliers on each side.
Edmon de Haro

YOU'VE PROBABLY PLAYED hundreds, maybe thousands, of videos on your smartphone. But have you ever thought about what happens when you press “play”?

The instant you touch that little triangle, many things happen at once. In microseconds, idle compute cores on your phone's processor spring to life. As they do so, their voltages and clock frequencies shoot up to ensure that the video decompresses and displays without delay. Meanwhile, other cores, running tasks in the background, throttle down. Charge surges into the active cores' millions of transistors and slows to a trickle in the newly idled ones.

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