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Hardware Science Technology

Magnetic Transistor Could Cut Power Consumption and Make Chips Reprogrammable 126

ananyo writes "Transistors, the simple switches at the heart of all modern electronics, generally use a tiny voltage to toggle between 'on' and 'off.' The voltage approach is highly reliable and easy to miniaturize, but has its disadvantages. First, keeping the voltage on requires power, which drives up the energy consumption of the microchip. Second, transistors must be hard-wired into the chips and can't be reconfigured, which means computers need dedicated circuitry for all their functions. Now, researchers have made a type of transistor that can be switched with magnetism. The device could cut the power consumption of computers, cell phones and other electronics — and allow chips themselves to be 'reprogrammed' (abstract)."
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Magnetic Transistor Could Cut Power Consumption and Make Chips Reprogrammable

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  • by mrbluze ( 1034940 ) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @12:24AM (#42775545) Journal

    Been so for 25 years. It's called FLASH memory.

    They mean the transistors are programmable. If you can change the chip logic, you can get custom behaviours at top speed. Flash is for firmware, but doesn't change the chip itself. This stuff is awesome if it can be made to be as fast as a regular transistor. OTOH magnetism itself is a bit of a worry, as the chip could get wiped quite easily.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:00AM (#42775661)

    It's a standard field effect transistor, except the gate can hold a magnetic charge on its own, with no voltage applied. You only need to apply a charge to change its state. It actually looks sort of like a flash cell, except as the gate of a transistor.

    However, it's made with indium antimonide, which apparently doesn't work well with existing fabrication methods. And I have to wonder what the switching times on it would be - if it can handle the multi-gigahertz frequencies in modern processors.

    The whole "reconfigurable" bit is journalist bullshit. Pay no attention to it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:18AM (#42775723)
    You could say the same thing about transistors vs vacuum tubes.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court