Research led by Intel and scientists at the University of California, Berkeley might be on the verge of helping replace the complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) technology underpinning microprocessors, RAM, and other logical circuits with 'quantum materials' leading to vastly superior electronics. Referred to as magneto-electric spin-orbit (MESO) devices in the research paper recently published in Nature, the fundamental use of the materials is similar to current technology. Namely, computations using MESO are still binary but depend on the up-and-down magnetic spin states correlated oxides and topological states of multiferroic for "collective switching and detection." Those states are switched using minuscule electrical signaling to alter stored binary information and conduct logic operations. The biggest advantage is that by comparison to CMOS, MESO reduces the voltage needed from 3 volts to 500 millivolts. That could be reduced to as little as 100 millivolts, the researchers claim, which would be around one-fifth of the current CMOS transistors.
At a deeper level, the figures begin to look even better in contrast to CMOS technology. The researchers say that the MESO technology has better switching energy by as many as 10 to 30 times, switch voltage that's down by a factor of five, and better density by a factor of five. The proposed scalable spintronic logic device can also fit as many as five times the logical operations within the same space currently occupied by CMOS as well. All of that equates to a significantly higher performance level at 10 to 100 times the energy efficiency the researchers expect CMOS to be able to achieve. At the same time, the technology's stable nature means that it needs comparatively little power at all to remain on standby.
Background: The technology put forward by Intel and UC Berkley, as alluded to above, doesn't differ in terms of the information stored from CMOS — first introduced more than half a century ago. Binary information in the latter, found in the components used in even the most modern Android devices from flagships to budget-friendly gadgets, is digitally stored in '1's and '0's. Those are switched as computations are performed and stored data is changed. In the case of MESO, the primary difference is in the materials used and the state that's actually being read. Programmatically, the up-and-down state of the magnetic charge of the topological materials placed on top of the multiferroic materials causes the electron spin to be one directional and switchable. The spin direction is measured in a way that ultimately equates to reading a one or a zero.
Impact: There won't likely be any electronics taking advantage of the recent discovery in the near future since the scientists admit are still several techniques and processes that need work in order to implement MESO. In fact, the new types of computing devices and architectures that will support MESO will still need to be engineered once those are in place. The intent of the research is to drive innovation to replace the now decades-old CMOS and show how MESO can be used in a similar fashion to current technology but with much more efficient materials. Technologies that continue to bolster computing capabilities while reducing energy consumption are integral to supporting and ushering in a new wave of machine learning, AI, and IOT driving smart homes, connected or autonomous vehicles, and manufacturing, the researchers point out. Replacing CMOS with MESO or designs derived from it may provide a feasible way to push forward for at least the next several generations of users.