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New quantum materials could take computing devices beyond the semiconductor era

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Danny Knackstedt
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Researchers from Intel Corp. and the University of California, Berkeley, are looking beyond current transistor technology and preparing the way for a new type of memory and logic circuit that could someday be in every computer on the planet.

In a paper appearing online Dec. 3 in advance of publication in the journal Nature, the researchers propose a way to turn relatively new types of materials, multiferroics and topological materials, into logic and memory devices that will be 10 to 100 times more energy-efficient than foreseeable improvements to current microprocessors, which are based on CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor).

In some ways, this could continue computing improvements for another whole generation of people," said lead author Sasikanth Manipatruni, who leads hardware development for the MESO project at Intel's Components Research group in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Transistor technology, invented 70 years ago, is used today in everything from cellphones and appliances to cars and supercomputers.

Transistors shuffle electrons around inside a semiconductor and store them as binary bits 0 and 1.

In the new MESO devices, the binary bits are the up-and-down magnetic spin states in a multiferroic, a material first created in 2001 by Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a UC Berkeley professor of materials science and engineering and of physics and a senior author of the paper.

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