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The microchip of tomorrow is small, economical, and can even retain memory during a power outage, new research suggests. The study published in the journal Advanced Materials suggests that researchers may be able to reduce the number of transistors needed to store data by 75% and, in turn, save 5% of global energy consumption.

Microchips expire, and this is especially true of silicon-containing components. Furthermore, the amount of small it can get has a limit. Nebraska University researchers decided to test a new transistor approach: instead of relying on electric charges, they employed spin, a magnetism-related property of electrons, which produced a detectable signal.

Graphene (a form of carbon composed of atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice) is then combined with magnetoelectric chromium oxide to form a spintronics-based transistor. In the laboratory, the researchers discovered that when they applied a positive voltage, the rotations of the chromium oxide pointed in a certain direction and thus formed a recognizable signal (a positive voltage created an upward movement, while a negative voltage – a downward movement).

Study results showed that the same results could be achieved with less energy resources. On top of that, the process works even with materials other than graphene, thus opening up new opportunities for industry. It will now be possible to combine materials in transistors to provide better performance than silicone, according to interestingengineering.com.