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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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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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