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Can magnets replace transistors in chip fabrication?

02 Oct 2014

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Magnetic building blocks

Magnetic circuits are non-volatile, meaning they don't need power to remember what state they are in. Among the most promising characteristics are low-energy consumption, room-temperature operation and the capability to resist radiation.

The potential to pack more gates onto a chip is especially important. Nanomagnetic logic can allow very dense packing, for several reasons. The most basic building blocks, the individual nanomagnets, are comparable in size to individual transistors. Furthermore, where transistors require contacts and wiring, nanomagnets operate purely with coupling fields. Also, in building CMOS and nanomagnetic devices that have the same function – for example, a so-called full-adder – it can take fewer magnets than transistors to get the job done.

Finally, the potential to break out of the 2D design space with stacks of 3D devices makes nanomagnetic logic competitive. TUM doctoral candidate Irina Eichwald, lead author of the paper, explained: "The 3D majority gate demonstrates that magnetic computing can be exploited in all three dimensions, in order to realise monolithic, sequentially stacked magnetic circuits promising better scalability and improved packing density."

"It is a big challenge to compete with silicon CMOS circuits," added Dr. Markus Becherer, leader of the TUM research group within the Institute for Technical Electronics. "However, there might be applications where the non-volatile, ultra-low power operation and high integration density offered by 3D nanomagnetic circuits give them an edge."


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