Researchers at UCLA developed a new nanoscale magnetic component for computer memory chips that could significantly improve their energy efficiency and scalability. The innovative asymmetric structure allows it to better exploit electrons' spin and orbital properties, making it much more power efficient than today's computer memory.

The structure devised at UCLA eliminates the need for an adjacent magnetic field. The researchers instead created an effective magnetic field by varying the angle of the structure by just a few atoms, in a shape resembling a cheese wedge: thicker on one end and sloping downward to a thinner edge on the other end.

Although the height difference between the two ends is only a few tenths of a nanometer — or a few billionths of a meter — over the length of each device, the new configuration generates significant additional spin-orbit torque, which could potentially use one-hundredth the amount of energy used by the chips in today's consumer electronics.