IBM details next-gen Racetrack memory specs

IBM is developing a new class of memory that could eventually allow portable devices to store thousands of movies and run on a single battery for weeks at a time.

So, how does Racetrack memory work?

Well, instead of telling a device to seek out the data it needs (as is the case in traditional computing systems), the new memory automatically moves data to where it can be used, sliding magnetic bits back and forth along nanowire “racetracks.”

“Digital data is typically stored in magnetic hard disk drives, which are low-cost but slow due to their moving parts, or in solid state memory such as Flash memory, which are faster but more expensive,” explained Dr. Stuart Parkin, an IBM Fellow at IBM Research – Almaden.

“Racetrack memory aims to combine the best attributes of these two types of devices by storing data as magnetic regions – also called domains – in racetracks just a few tens of nanometers wide.”

According to Parkin, this technique facilitates the precise placement of domains, which act as nano-sized data keepers capable of rapidly accessing and storing immense amounts of data. 

“By controlling electrical pulses in the device, the scientists can move these domain walls at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour and then stop them precisely at the position needed.

“This allows massive amounts of stored information to be accessed in less than a billionth of a second.”

Parkin also noted that to achieve the densest and fastest possible memory, the domain walls inside the device must be moved at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour to atomically precise positions along the tracks. 

“These timescales (tens of nanoseconds) and distances (micrometers) are surprisingly long, especially since previous experiments had shown no evidence for acceleration and deceleration for domain walls driven along smooth racetracks with current,” he added.