Materials that are both ferroelectric and magnetic – hence, multiferroics – are rare.
The UCLA Engineering team used multiferroic magnetic materials to lessen the amount of power consumed by “logic devices,” which are a type of circuit on a computer chip devoted to performing functions such as calculations. A multiferroic can be switched on or off by applying alternating voltage, which then carries power through the material in a cascading wave through the spins of electrons – a process referred to as a spin wave bus.
A spin wave keeps water molecules in basically the same place while the energy is carried through the water – as opposed to an electric current, which is akin to water flowing through a pipe, according to principal investigator Kang L. Wang, UCLA’s Raytheon Professor of Electrical Engineering and director of the Western Institute of Nanoelectronics (WIN).
The UCLA researchers were able to show that using this multiferroic material to produce spin waves could decrease wasted heat and therefore increase power efficiency for processing by up to 1,000 times.