| Materials

Nanoporous Material Reduces Computer Energy Consumption

This material could be used in magnetic memory for computers and mobile phones.

In order to store information in the conventional magnetic memories of electronic devices, the material’s small magnetic domains are oriented “up” or “down” by using externally applied magnetic fields. To generate these fields, it is necessary to produce electric currents; however, these currents heat up materials, and a large amount of energy is needed to cool them.

A metal nanosponge is shown under the microscope. (Credit: Jordi Sort/UAB)

An alternative solution focuses on the magnetic properties of a new nanoporous material with very high surface area. The materal consists in nanoporous copper-nickel alloy films, organized so that the interior forms surfaces and holes similar to those of the inside of a sponge, but with a separation between pores (i.e., thickness of the pore walls) of only 5 or 10 nanometers; the walls of the pores contain room for only a few dozen atoms.

The nanopores found on the inside of nanoporous materials offer a great amount of surface. With this vast surface concentrated in a very small space, a small voltage can be applied, reducing the energy needed to orient the magnetic domains and record data.

The prototypes of nanoporous magnetic memories based on copper-nickel (CuNi) alloys demonstrated a reduction of 35% in magnetic coercivity, a magnitude related to the magnetic field (i.e., energy consumption) needed to switch the orientation of magnetic bits. The voltage was applied using liquid electrolytes, but future work will be focused on developing solid dielectrics that could prompt the use of these devices in the commercial market. Implementing the material into the memories of computers and mobile devices could result in direct energy savings for computers, and an increase in the autonomy of mobile devices.

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