Researchers Create Energy Efficient Switch Needing No Electric Current

Researchers from New York University (NYU) have announced a discovery that can control magnetic circuits using an energy-efficient switch that needs no electrical current. Controlling switches of this sort currently requires electricity and generates heat and energy loss making them expensive to operate. The cost is particularly enormous in large data centers and server farms.

The technique that the NYU researchers have invented is called voltage-controlled topological spin switch (vTOPSS) and requires only an electric field, rather than a current, to switch between two Boolean logic states. The team devised a way to transport spin without a charge using a topological insulator. That is a material with an interior that is insulating, but an exterior that can support the flow of electrons on its surface. That process significantly reduces heat generated and the energy used.

Team member Shaloo Rakheja says that vTOPSS increases functionality and circuit design possibilities because it has integrated logic and non-volatile memory. Rakheja gives an analogy to explain the effect the team's new device offers compared to existing technology.

"Imagine if you were preparing a recipe and had to go into a different room anytime you needed an ingredient before returning to the kitchen to add it," she says. "It's just as inefficient when the portions of computing hardware needed to do a calculation and the portions needed to store it are not well integrated."

The team says that vTOPPS will reduce the reliance on cloud memory and therefore has the potential to make computing safer since hackers will have a more difficult time gaining access to system hardware. The next steps that the team plans include additional optimizations at the materials and design levels to improve the switching speed. The team also plans to develop prototypes of their design.