2-D Magnets could be about to change magnetic storage again

A magnet, attracting ones and zeroes

Posted on Thursday, June 22, 2017

Less than a week after we predicted the days of magnetic storage may be nearly over, scientists have revived the technology once more.

A paper published by researcher from the University of Washington and Massachusetts Institute of Technology discusses the apparently unique properties of a substance called chromium triiodide (or CrI3 for short).

Most substances rely on several layers of atoms for their magnetic properties, making them three dimensional. CrI3 is different because magnetism can be retained in a single layer of atoms, or two dimensions.

The thinnest possible storage layer

This property is particularly important for data applications because it means that in future, physical storage units may be no more than a single layer of atoms thick. Which means that storage density can be increased significantly too.

In an email explaining their findings, lead author Bevin Huang explains, “Practically, miniaturization and increased efficiency is the main feature of these 2-D magnets.

A potential solution to an even larger problem

As investigations into the properties of CrI3 it is possible that the substance will solve another problem with the future of magnetic storage – data recovery times.

Rather than deploying CrI3 as a thin layer on spinning disk platters, researchers hope to see it used in the development of new magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) applications.

MRAM is widely expected to bridge the gap between data storage and RAM that currently causes bottlenecks in processing speed. CrI3 may provide the ultra-thin, ultra high-density medium required to unite storage and quick access memory into a single new unit.

As Huang says, “These 2-D magnets can potentially increase the storage capacities of MRAM, a possible ‘universal memory’ … by up to one to two orders of magnitude.

Although the days of magnetic disk remain numbered, it seems as though magnetism itself may still have a role to play in computer data storage moving forward. Perhaps the future isn’t completely organic after all?

Next steps

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