A few weeks ago we reported about research from Virginia Commonwealth University - an integrated circuit using spintronics and straintronics. The new IC design uses very little energy - in fact it could run merely by tapping the ambient energy from the environment. Today we learn that the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded $1.5 million to this research, in a 4 year grant (from September 2011 to August 2015).

According to the NSF, this project will:

  • develop all the modeling tools necessary to simulate these devices and their switching dynamics. They will incorporate the effects of device and circuit stochasticity and thermal fluctuations via appropriate models such as stochastic Landau-Lifshitz-Gilbert equations and/or Fokker-Planck equations.
  • Demonstrate Bennett clocking and successful logic bit propagation in a digital gate array fabricated with nanolithography, where clocking is carried out with tiny voltages generating strain
  • Design energy-efficient neuromorphic architectures based on multi-state hybrid spintronic/straintronic synapses and neurons that can process analog signals
  • Demonstrate image processing with straintronic/spintronic nodes communicating via spin waves to implement specific image morphing algorithms. These image processors will be extremely fast since they will rely on the physics of magnetic interactions between spin wave circuits and the collective activity of multiferroic magnetic cells to elicit the required functionality, without requiring any software or execution of instruction sets.

The NSF claims that this research will potentially impact all areas of computing and signal processing. Computers employing the hybrid spintronics/straintronics approach can be so energy-efficient that they could operate by harvesting energy from the surroundings, without requiring a battery.

More info about the reward can be found here.