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Science

Scientists Demonstrate Ultra-Fast Magnetite Electrical Switch 37

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-now-we're-vulnerable-to-magneto dept.
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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Scientists Demonstrate Ultra-Fast Magnetite Electrical Switch

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  • 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.

    • by Jeremi (14640) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @06:19PM (#44429707) Homepage

      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.

      • by durrr (1316311)

        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.

        • 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.
          • by shaitand (626655)
            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.
    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Could be. I can see possibilities for extremely high frequency oscillators and mixers used in optical data transmission.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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 circu

    • by pspahn (1175617)

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

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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?

    • by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @07:11PM (#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.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      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

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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

      • by NikeHerc (694644)
        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!
    • Yeah, stop wasting money on research. This stuff never pans out, so lets stop trying.

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

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