Researchers including one of Indian-origin have engineered a material that could lead to a new generation of computing devices, packing in more computing power while consuming nearly 100 times less energy thant today's electronics require.
"Electronics are the fastest-growing consumer of energy worldwide," said one of the study authors, Ramamoorthy Ramesh from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US.
"Today, about five per cent of our total global energy consumption is spent on electronics, and that's projected to grow to 40-50 percent by 2030 if we continue at the current pace and if there are no major advances in the field that lead to lower energy consumption," Ramesh said.
Known as a magnetoelectric multiferroic material, it combines electrical and magnetic properties at room temperature and relies on a phenomenon called "planar rumpling."
The new material sandwiches together individual layers of atoms, producing a thin film with magnetic polarity that can be flipped from positive to negative or vice versa with small pulses of electricity.
In the future, device-makers could use this property to store the binary digits that underpin computing devices.
"Before this work, there was only one other room-temperature multiferroic whose magnetic properties could be controlled by electricity," said John Heron, Assistant Professor at University of Michigan who worked on the material with researchers at Cornell University.
"That electrical control is what excites electronics makers, so this is a huge step forward," Heron noted.
Room-temperature multiferroics are a hotly pursued goal in the electronics field because they require much less power to read and write data than today's semiconductor-based devices.
In addition, their data doesn't vanish when the power is shut off. Those properties could enable devices that require only brief pulses of electricity instead of the constant stream that's needed for current electronics, using an estimated 100 times less energy.
A paper on the work was published in the journal Nature.