Spintronics researchers from University College London, the University of Utah and Florida State University report a record-breaking data storage time of 112 seconds. The interesting bit is that they stored the data on the spin state of silicon nuclei, not electrons. And the cherry on the top? They managed to retrieve the data as well.
Christophe Boehme, a researcher at the University of Utah and co-author on the paper published in December 17th issue of Science, said the length of spin memory observed was "more than adequate" to create memories for computers.
Lead author Dane McCamey of the University of Utah said in a statement: "Finding a system compatible with silicon, the main material used in the semiconductor industry, is particularly useful as it has the potential to be incorporated into existing technology. We could then integrate spin-based information storage and processing devices onto a single chip."
But, and there is always this but with spintronics, the system has to operate at just a few degrees above absolute zero. An although it certainly feels like that in the UK at the moment (we’re not used to it), that is still pretty tricky to achieve on a commercial scale.
"Yes, you could immediately build a memory chip this way, but do you want a computer that has to be operated at 458 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and in a big national magnetic laboratory environment?" Boehme said.
The magnet is used to align the nuclear spins. Previous research has shown electron spins can be lined up this way, but do it with nuclei is new.
The next step will be to find ways of working at higher temperatures. Then they can think about getting rid of the big magnet.
The work is published in Science, here and there is a press release here.