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Scientists develop new material that could make future computers 100 times more power efficient

For device makers, room-temperature multiferroics is a huge step forward as they require much less power to read and write data than today’s semiconductor-based devices. Also, the data doesn't vanish when the power is shut off, making it more energy efficient.

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A team of researchers, including one of Indian origin, has built a special material that could make future devices consume nearly 100 times less energy than today’s electronics. The new type of material sandwiches together individual layers of atoms, producing a thin film with magnetic polarity that can be flipped from positive to negative or vice versa with small pulses of electricity.

The material could be used by device manufacturers in the future to store the binary digits that underpin computing devices.  Known as a magneto-electric multiferroic material, it combines electrical and magnetic properties at room temperature and relies on a phenomenon called “planar rumpling.” The total global energy consumption is projected to grow to 40-50 percent by 2030 and this new innovation is touted as a huge step towards taming the energy consumed by everyday appliances. What brings the attention of device makers to room-temperature multiferroics is that they require much less power to read and write data than today’s semiconductor-based devices. Also, the data doesn’t vanish when the power is shut off, making it more energy efficient.

“Electronics are the fastest-growing consumer of energy worldwide,” said one of the study authors, Ramamoorthy Ramesh from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US.

“Today, about 5 percent of our total global energy consumption is spent on electronics, and that’s projected to grow to 40-50 percent by 2030 if we continue at the current pace and if there are no major advances in the field that lead to lower energy consumption,” Ramesh said. ALSO READ: Google joins Facebook-led OCP to help develop affordable and energy efficient data infrastructure

“Before this work, there was only one other room-temperature multiferroic whose magnetic properties could be controlled by electricity,” said John Heron, assistant professor at University of Michigan who worked on the material with researchers at Cornell University.

“That electrical control is what excites electronics makers, so this is a huge step forward,” Heron noted.

Properties like low amount of power required and no loss of data when the power is shut off could enable devices that require only brief pulses of electricity instead of the constant stream that’s needed for current electronics, using an estimated 100 times less energy.

A paper on the work was published in the journal Nature.