This would result in eliminating volatile memory, which requires power to maintain stored data, and reducing the gigantic energy losses associated with it - radically altering computer architectures and consumer electronics.
A spintronics-based technology by Japanese researchers may replace volatile memory and enable extremely energy-efficient, hand-cranked or solar-powered devices.
Most parts of present computers are made with volatile devices such as transistors and dynamic random access memory (DRAM), which loses information when powered off.
So computers are designed on the premise that power is "normally on".
Now, Koji Ando and his colleagues at the Japanese National Projects have broadly envisioned the future of spin-transfer torque magnetoresistive random access memory (STT-MRAM) technology to create a new type of computer: a "normally off" one.
Spintronics couples magnetism with electronics at the quantum mechanical level.
"Indeed, STT-MRAM no longer requires an electromagnetic coil for both writing and reading information. We are excited by this paradigm shift and are working on developing a variety of technologies for next-generation electronics devices," Ando explained.
If STT-MRAM is to play a key role for 'normally off' computers, it would first require the integration of a variety of technologies.
"We are currently collaborating with researchers in several fields - from materials science, device technology, circuit technology, memory and computer architectures, operating systems," Ando informed.
The potential for redesigning present-day technologies so that computer power consumption is zero during any short intervals when users are absent is that may lead to extremely energy-efficient personal devices powered by a hand-crank or embedded solar panel.
Such devices would find use in a wide swath of applications ranging from mobile computing to wearable or embedded electronics, said the research published in the Journal of Applied Physics.