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Scientists Demonstrate Ultra-Fast Magnetite Electrical Switch

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the but-now-we're-vulnerable-to-magneto dept.

Science 37

adeelarshad82 writes "Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory recently demonstrated electrical switching thousands of times faster than in transistors now in use thanks to a naturally magnetic mineral called magnetite (abstract). The experiment is considered a major step forward in understanding electrical structures at the atomic level and working with recently identified electrical 'building blocks' called trimerons. The breakthrough could lead to innovations in the tiny transistors that control the flow of electricity across silicon chips, enabling faster, more powerful computing devices."

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Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429683)

Left hand, right hand, something, something.

Re:Dupe (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44429825)

Yes, it's a dupe, but at least this one has a link to an article that explains something about it.

Re:Dupe (0)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44432015)

Unfortunately, magnetite is only found in the teeth of Apache Indian's, so it's either faster computers or them...

Re:Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44435659)

Excuse me, sir, but your "joke" is not only funny, it's racist. And your use of the grocer's apostrophe [blogspot.com] shows that you are an uneducated moron who shouldn't be posting at a site where the commenters are presumed to be literate. Please go away, 4chan might be right for you.

Re:Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44435265)

I wish it would have explained timerons. I've never heard of them, and aparently neither has Wikipedia or Google. At least from the summary I know that they're "recently identified electrical 'building blocks' " but that isn't a whole lot of information.

Re:Dupe (1)

MiniMike (234881) | about a year ago | (#44430209)

But it was duped ultra-fast keeping in the spirit of the story.

Re:Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44430533)

Don't they have someone that monitors this stuff?

Re:Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44431245)

They have two!

Heard this one before (0)

durrr (1316311) | about a year ago | (#44429689)

Is this actually relevant for end-user electronics? Or is it yet another of those wonderful promising potential fast-switching techs that are announced every few months(since 1980 or so) yet never pan out to anything practical.

Re:Heard this one before (3)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#44429707)

No, but it is relevant for nerds.

As for whether or not new technologies ever pan out... perhaps you should compare whatever computer it is you're using now against the one you were using in 1980.

Re:Heard this one before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429875)

Yeah like all of that other mumbo jumbo about silicon on insulator or copper interconnects or reduced instruction set computing, or multiple processor cores, or... yeah bunch of bs we'll never see

Re:Heard this one before (1)

durrr (1316311) | about a year ago | (#44429987)

I'm talking about the non-silicon THz frequency transistors that are promised every now and then, obviously the normal iterative approach is a valid approach for improvments, but it doens't lead to breakthrough paradigm shifts.

Re:Heard this one before (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about a year ago | (#44430391)

The issue is that generally, something might be possible in the lab but impractical or tooexpensive to scale to commercial production levels. So, instead of a 100x performance increase, they might be able to use the information to give us a 10x performance increase, over the course of years of iterative development.

Re:Heard this one before (1)

shaitand (626655) | about a year ago | (#44435015)

Or that the commercial entity which ends up with the technology wants to get the most they can out of it commercially and release it as slow incremental improvements that put them just a little ahead of their competitors over and over again for years. If they go full on and put in the money to dish it out all at once they get a single big leap over their competitors for the time it takes their competitors to adopt said technology as well and then they have nothing else to release to answer back.

Re:Heard this one before (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44429879)

Could be. I can see possibilities for extremely high frequency oscillators and mixers used in optical data transmission.

Re:Heard this one before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429983)

The fastests silicon oscillator is 192GHz apparently. This magnetite effect might reach a terahertz. That's the low end of infrared. Optical frequency oscillators.

Re:Heard this one before (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429919)

You can't make a tiny transistor when they have to use a laser to turn on/off the device. I'll bet the laser is a lot bigger than the feature sizes of transistors these days. i.e. not going to have as complex circuits as we have today.

So how long to charge that laser, what type of delay you to laser fires and are you using a slower technology to switch the laser on/off?
You can improve the rise/fall time of the transistor, great, but if you have a lot of latency from the control signal to the laser to circuit switching, it doesn't improve on propagation delay. Factor all that in, is it still switching faster than the plain old transistor?

Re:Heard this one before (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year ago | (#44429921)

Does it count as prior art if the prior art is biogenic? If so... meh, this is old news!

Re:Heard this one before (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429957)

Magnetite is already commonly used in magnetic storage such as hard disks.

Now that SSDs are replacing hard disks the magnetite suppliers are looking for new customers.
Want to bet they are going to fund the shit out of research into using it as transistors in household electronics?

Re:Heard this one before (4, Informative)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#44430065)

Is this actually relevant for end-user electronics? Or is it yet another of those wonderful promising potential fast-switching techs that are announced every few months(since 1980 or so) yet never pan out to anything practical.

It it's current form, no, at least not for desktops. It might be useful for supercomputers. Real supercomputers that is, not the supercomputers currently in vogue made of hundreds of pallet loads of commodity type PCs linked by networks. The requirement for cryocooling (-190 C.) pretty much rules it out otherwise.

Hopefully it will serve as a good starting point for further research that could lead to breakthroughs that allow it to work at higher temperatures.

Re:Heard this one before (2)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44430271)

this is normal for scientific R&D for possible future products, most things don't pan out. those very few things that get invested in don't pan out. most start up businesses don't pan out. One of my past jobs was manager of engineering group at profitable company, and even then most things done in R&D there don't pan out.

so don't complain, it's normal and always has been

Re:Heard this one before (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44432247)

Is this actually relevant for end-user electronics? Or is it yet another of those wonderful promising potential fast-switching techs that are announced every few months(since 1980 or so) yet never pan out to anything practical.

You'd be surprised of how many of those things that already have found their way into your home but still pop up on slashdot because someone finds out some new production method to make them more viable in other application.
Take for example this article about GaAs semiconductors from 2001 [slashdot.org]
You also have retarded comments like "Ah, Gallium Arsenide chips, thw chip of the future. Always have been, always will be, the chip of the future." from Blaede, a comment that reminds me of yours.
Yet today I'm pretty sure that the RF components in all your wireless devices are GaAs today. We had to replace our RF switches with GaAs a couple of years ago since the old technology was phased out.
Of course you don't see it because that would require opening it up and reading the datasheet for the components.
Technology and science aren't selling points so you will never see the technology written about if you only look at consumer pages and shiny packaging. There are other pages that highlights the news that you are interested in, like PCWorld [pcworld.com] and Macworld [macworld.com]

Re:Heard this one before (1)

NikeHerc (694644) | about a year ago | (#44446397)

Take for example this article about GaAs semiconductors from 2001...

Thank you, AC, for posting this interesting old /. article. Man, how I miss the old /., when knowledgeable people posted technical stuff worth reading!

Re:Heard this one before (1)

Flere Imsaho (786612) | about a year ago | (#44439701)

Yeah, stop wasting money on research. This stuff never pans out, so lets stop trying.

I thought.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429695)

...the next breakthrough electronic technology would involve the transtator. Star Trek couldn't possibly be wrong.

dupe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429699)

dupe from yesterday

Area [mumble] & Roswell. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429813)

This is nice. Amazing what one can reverse-engineer from crashed UFOs.

How is it made? (1)

Pharoah_69 (2866937) | about a year ago | (#44429837)

Magnetite. How is it spun? How is it made?

Re:How is it made? (2)

wooferhound (546132) | about a year ago | (#44430349)

It's made from Tight Magnets . . .

shorter, better abstract. (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about a year ago | (#44430359)

scientists have reaffirmed that magnetite has absolutley ZERO PRACTICAL value in transistor applications. "No way in hell" was the unatributed quote.

Every time I read news like this... (1)

Alejux (2800513) | about a year ago | (#44430865)

I think to myself, why don't you put it in a chip already so I can play games with real time ray-tracing at 4K resolution?! I wish I had technical knowledge to understand how far all these discoveries are from being implemented in a commercial CPU or a GPU. My ignorance frustrates me!!!

Ray Tracing is a terrible technique (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44431305)

Why do idiots keep thinking that Ray Tracing is the solution to good graphics in games. May I invite people to actually read a few papers on the subject? Ray tracing is actually one of the worst possible methods for rendering. It suffers godawful data coherency issues. It does not solve the shadow/lighting problem at all (unless you think you can simulate full blown reality).

The progression of render quality in computer games has been staggering over the last years, especially in the area of lighting and shadows. The one factor holding back quality has been the ancient consoles on which games MUST earn the majority of their profits. Visual techniques totally beyond the power of these consoles were largely ignored. The new consoles later this year, especially the much more powerful PS4, will change this situation in the most profound way. Although it will take a few years, the engines running on the PS4 will certainly be photo-realistic enough, so that the focus returns (as it should) to issues of game play and better simulation of functioning elements in the game world.

Sadly, the average gamer lacks the intellect to fully appreciate the achievements of the game in front of him. The new consoles won't change this fact.

Re:Ray Tracing is a terrible technique (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44432651)

Because raytracing does produce near-reality quality. It solves the shadow/lighting problem - you simply treat diffuse light sources as a very large number of point light sources. All those wonderfully-perfect CGI films and special effects are produced using raytracing... at an hour a frame.

The only problem with raytracing is the extreme processing requirements. It's paralleliseable to a point, until you start having issues with memory bandwidth.

Re:Ray Tracing is a terrible technique (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44435107)

Maybe someday we figure out how to drop all the calculations the eye doesn't see. Just like we did with mp3.

It will need eye tracking mechanism to render details in only those parts of the screen the viewer is looking. The rest can be rendered only superficially.

Re:Ray Tracing is a terrible technique (1)

thereitis (2355426) | about a year ago | (#44440427)


Re:Every time I read news like this... (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#44431955)

You can probably take it as a rule of thumb that it will take 5-10 years for a basic scientific development like this, involving the materials, to move from the lab to production quality chips. That is assuming that it ever makes it. Variations in the count of things (going from 2 processors to 4) generally aren't that difficult on the hardware side, but getting full effect from the software may take some time. The more "exotic" the technology is, the greater the risk that it will take longer, or not happen at all. A lot of things can happen between the lab and your desktop. The technology may not be suitable for mass production. They may not be able to get it to work without cryo-cooling which will significantly limit where and how it can be used, as well as the expense. (This technology requires -190C to work.) It may take new design technology or techniques to integrate the devices from the development into a commercial chip. The process of making it may not be compatible with the processes used by the semiconductors used to make things in your PC. Lots of things can go wrong. But sometimes you get lucky and it can drive a chain of improvements. So yes, 5-10 years, if all goes well is I think a reasonable rule of thumb. It can take longer, it might rarely go quicker. Also keep in mind that companies do sometimes keep a key new development secret to try to get ahead of the competition. In those cases it will be available before you would otherwise expect it.

Re:Every time I read news like this... (1)

mitcheli (894743) | about a year ago | (#44434221)

Just in time for the iPhone 10! (Or perhaps the iPhone 15?)
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