Magnetic memory chip works within bendy plastic

(Credit: National University of Singapore)

A new technique implants a high-performance magnetic memory chip on a flexible plastic surface without compromising performance.

This invention, developed at the National University of Singapore, brings researchers a step closer towards making flexible, wearable electronics a reality.

“Flexible electronics will become the norm in the near future, and all new electronic components should be compatible with flexible electronics,” says study leader Yang Hyunsoo, an associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.

The research team has successfully embedded a powerful magnetic memory chip on a flexible plastic material. The device could be a critical component for the design and development of flexible and lightweight devices. The work could find uses in the automotive industry, healthcare electronics, industrial motor control and robotics, industrial power and energy management, as well as military and avionics systems.

The new device operates on magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM), which uses a magnesium oxide (MgO)-based magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) to store data. MRAM outperforms conventional random access memory (RAM) computer chips in many aspects, including the ability to retain data after a power supply is cut off, high processing speed, and low power consumption.

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The research team first grew the MgO-based MTJ on a silicon surface, and then etched away the underlying silicon. Using a transfer printing approach, the team implanted the magnetic memory chip on a flexible plastic surface made of polyethylene terephthalate while controlling the amount of strain caused by placing the memory chip on the plastic surface.

“Our experiments showed that our device’s tunneling magnetoresistance could reach up to 300 percent—it’s like a car having extraordinary levels of horsepower,” says Yang. “We have also managed to achieve improved abruptness of switching. With all these enhanced features, the flexible magnetic chip is able to transfer data faster.”

The research team reports their findings in the journal Advanced Materials.

The United States and South Korea have issued Yang and team patents for their technology. The team is conducting experiments to improve the magnetoresistance of the device by fine-tuning the level of strain in its magnetic structure, and they are also planning to apply their technique in various other electronic components. The team is also interested to work with industry partners to explore further applications of this novel technology.

Researchers from Yonsei University, Ghent University, and Singapore’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering contributed to the work.

Source: National University of Singapore