IBM announced today that it has entered into a joint development agreement with Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to further explore “Racetrack” memory, an entirely new approach to solid state memory that IBM unveiled earlier this year.
Researchers from IBM believe that within the next 10 years, racetrack memory – so named because the data “races” around the wire “track” – could mean that an mp3 player would hold some 500 000 songs or 3500 movies, 100 times today’s capacity. Racetrack storage would also use less power, generate less heat and be practically unbreakable. Unlike hard disk drives, racetrack memory has no moving parts. It also overcomes a major weakness of the flash drives: they can be used only a few thousand times because each “rewrite” causes slight damage.
The joint development team, led by Dr. Parkin and ITRI’s vice president Dr. Ian Chan, will study new materials and structures for Racetrack memory that could lead to a paradigm shift in storage and memory technologies.
“We expect that our exploration of a wide variety of materials and structures will provide new insight into the dynamics of Racetrack Memory, making possible an entirely new class of information storage devices. This could change the design of information processing systems,” said Dr. Ian Chan.
Racetrack Memory promises a high capacity, non-volatile memory storage device with high performance and low energy consumption. This approach stores data in the form of domain walls – boundaries between oppositely magnetized regions – in magnetic nanowires. Many domain walls are stored in each racetrack, enabling very high data density and thereby low cost – as low as flash memory using horizontal racetracks and potentially as low as magnetic disk drives using vertical racetracks. The data within each Racetrack are read and written by shifting them to reading and writing elements. IBM recently demonstrated that short pulses of spin polarized current can be used to controllably move several domain walls back and forth along a racetrack, the key underlying principle of Racetrack memory.