University of Minnesota researchers' 'breakthrough' could pave way for faster computer chips

Researchers at the University of Minnesota worked on a new technique the university is touting as a breakthrough for semiconductor manufacturing.

Semiconductors are used in the manufacturing of computer chips, which are vital parts of our computers, cell phones, and vehicles. In a release on Monday, the university says its breakthrough is connected to "spintronics" -- a process that uses "the spin of electrons rather than the electrical charge to store data."

Currently, the industry standard for spintronics is cobalt iron boron, which the university says "has reached a limit in its scalability."

Research conducted by the University of Minnesota with the National Institute of Standards and Technology looked at using another material, iron palladium, which researchers said "requires less energy and has the potential for more data storage, can be scaled down to much smaller sizes."

"This means Honeywell, Skywater, Globalfoundries, Intel, and companies like them can integrate this material into their semiconductor manufacturing processes and products," said professor Jian-Ping Wang, senior author of the paper, in a provided statement. "That’s very exciting because engineers in the industry will be able to design even more powerful systems."

Simply put: Researchers say the new breakthrough could pave the way for "faster and more efficient" devices.

Researchers say it's possible that thanks to the University of Minnesota's work, iron palladium could become the new standard for semiconductors.

"Our team challenged ourselves to elevate a new material to manufacture spintronic devices needed for the next generation of data-hungry apps," said Daniel Gopman with the NIST. "It will be exciting to see how this advance drives further growth of spintronics devices within the semiconductor chip technology landscape."