Magnetic Microchips Provide New Spin on Processors - What’s the Down Side?
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I admit, I’m a writer, not a scientist. So for those who have a subscription to Science magazine (or know some clever tricks with search engines), the article you want to read is titled “Magnetic Domain-Wall Logic.” It is about 12 pages long when printed out, and is in volume 309, issue 5741 of the magazine, 1688-1692, dated September 9, 2005. Keep in mind, since this is a scientific publication, the language that is specific to the field gets pretty intense at times. I’m giving you all this information because I do have some misgivings about the technology; I couldn’t find answers to my questions in that article, but perhaps someone else can.
First I’m going to point out a potential issue the article itself raised. This technology might not be as low on power consumption as it appears at first glance, because instead of electricity, you’re generating a magnetic field – and there are some inefficiencies involved with that. The authors of the paper seemed pretty optimistic that these problems could be overcome.
The second issue illustrates just how revolutionary this technology is. Computer hard drives are wiped out by powerful magnets. The BIOS in the motherboard is also affected by magnets. Just what kind of effect would a magnetic central processing unit have on these items? Additionally, we have been told not to put things like credit cards and items with magnetic strips on top of computers; whether that is a problem now, as opposed to with older computers, may be beside the point.
How will we have to handle a computer equipped with a magnetic CPU? Will we have to keep magnets away from them? What about items with magnetic strips? Will we have to completely rethink hard drives and BIOS? Or will we simply have to come up with some kind of shielding system? These are not small issues, since these chips seem nearly ideal for portable systems…which would presumably be carried in close proximity to credit cards with magnetic strips and other items that could be disrupted, or even cause disruption of the system.
I would dearly love to put these questions to the scientists directly, even if they show my own ignorance of how the field of “spintronics” works. I trust that they will be taken into consideration, and the issues solved, before any products hit the market. So in five years or so, you probably won’t be making all the metal pens in your room adhere to your computer when you try to overclock it (if these new chips even can be overclocked), but your pockets and belt might feel a little less burdened carrying your one portable “everything” device.
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