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New Superconducting Magnetic Memory Element Developed

(L to R): Physics and Astronomy Professor Norman Birge, graduate students Bethany Niedzielski and Joseph Glick, and Scientific Instrument Facilities Coordinator Reza Loloee, Ph.D., stand next to the high-vacuum sputtering system used in the project.

In a research project funded through the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) organization, several Michigan State University researchers, as well as scientists from Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, recently developed a superconducting magnetic memory element that has greatly reduced heat generation and power consumption compared to conventional alternatives. The study was recently published in Nature Physics.

“Supercomputers consume enormous amounts of power in exchange for their computational abilities,” said Norman Birge, a professor in MSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Natural Science, and co-author of the paper.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, data centers are one of the largest and fastest growing consumers of electricity in the United States. In 2013, U.S. data centers consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and are on track to reach 140 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020.

When IARPA projected what larger-scale computers might look like in the future, it seemed they would become almost energy prohibitive. It became evident that new computer technology would need to display much more energy efficiency than current technologies in order to reduce world electricity use.

“This novel scalable memory element can be controllably switched into two distinct phase states to act as the 1’s and 0’s of computer language,” Birge said. “Memory like this is an essential piece in work toward developing a fully superconducting computer.”

This study is the first demonstration that using these types of devices for computer memory is actually feasible.

- more at the College of Natural Science

- photo above: (L to R): Physics and Astronomy Professor Norman Birge, graduate students Bethany Niedzielski and Joseph Glick, and Scientific Instrument Facilities Coordinator Reza Loloee, Ph.D., stand next to the high-vacuum sputtering system used in the project.

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