The Computer Chip That Never Forgets

Melding spin-based logic and memory could lead to low-power, instant-on electronics

15 min read
The Computer Chip That Never Forgets
Illustration: Chad Hagen

In 1945, mathematician John von Neumann wrote down a very simple recipe for a computer. It would contain two key components: a central processing unit to perform calculations and logical operations, and a memory bank to store instructions and data.

Our computers and microprocessor-equipped gadgets still follow this basic recipe. But under the hood, of course, they are far more complex. No existing form of memory is good at everything. So to move instructions and data as fast as possible, engineers have had to compromise. Today’s computers use a smorgasbord of different memory technologies, exploiting the best parts of each.

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IEEE Spectrum Wins Six Neal Awards

The publication was recognized for its editorial excellence, website, and art direction

1 min read
A group of smiling people holding two award placards in front of a backdrop for the Jess H. Neal Awards

The IEEE editorial and art team show off two of their five awards.

Bruce Byers/SIIA

IEEE Spectrum garnered top honors at this year’s annual Jesse H. Neal Awards ceremony, held on 26 April. Known as the “Pulitzer Prizes” of business-to-business journalism, the Neal Awards recognize editorial excellence. The awards are given by the SIIA (Software and Information Industry Association).

For the fifth year in a row, IEEE Spectrum was awarded the Best Media Brand. The award is given for overall editorial excellence.

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Hydrogen Helps Make Topological Insulators Practical

This trick could open a path toward practical quantum computing and dissipationless electronics

2 min read
Rendering shows a clear beaker with rendering suspended in liquid of atomic-scale model featuring red and white connected dots floating in liquid. Two  connect above them.

In this image, a beaker of hydrochloric acid (HCl) contains an enlarged model of a submerged sample of a topological insulator. Hydrogen atoms from the HCl [blue dots] bind to the insulator [red and white circles], in the process retaining the insulator’s useful electronic properties while also becoming stable at room temperature.

Lukas Zhao

Future microchips that require far less energy than present-day devices may rely on exotic materials known as topological insulators, in which electricity flows across only surfaces and edges, with virtually no dissipation of energy. However, it can prove tricky developing such materials for real-world applications. Now a new study reveals that simply incorporating hydrogen into topological insulators may control their electronic properties to help make them useful.

Topology is the branch of mathematics that investigates what features of shapes may survive deformation. Material science has emerged in recent decades as an unexpected but compelling application of topology. The insights from topological models, scientists have discovered, help to understand and predict some materials’ unusual properties. These include electromagnetic effects beyond those explained by Maxwell’s Equations as well as quantum particles that could yield new kinds of electronic and optical devices.

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Distinguishing weak signals from noise is a challenging task in data acquisition. In this webinar, we will explain challenges and explore solutions. Register now!
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