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Energy Efficient Digital Logic Using Nanoscale Magnetic Devices


Increasing demand for information processing in the last 50 years has been largely satisfied by the steadily declining price and improving performance of microelectronic devices. Much of this progress has been made by aggressively scaling the size of semiconductor transistors and metal interconnects that microprocessors are built from. As devices shrink to the size regime in which quantum effects pose significant challenges, new physics may be required in order to continue historical scaling trends. A variety of new devices and physics are currently under investigation throughout the scientific and engineering community to meet these challenges.

One of the more drastic proposals on the table is to replace the electronic components of information processors with magnetic components. Magnetic components are already commonplace in computers for their information storage capability. Unlike most electronic devices, magnetic materials can store data in the absence of a power supply. Today's magnetic hard disk drives can routinely hold billions of bits of information and are in widespread commercial use. Their ability to function without a constant power source hints at an intrinsic energy efficiency. The question we investigate in this dissertation is whether or not this advantage can be extended from information storage to the notoriously energy intensive task of information processing.

Several proof-of-concept magnetic logic devices were proposed and tested in the past decade. In this dissertation, we build on the prior work by answering fundamental questions about how magnetic devices achieve such high energy efficiency and how they can best function in digital logic applications. The results of this analysis are used to suggest and test improvements to nanomagnetic computing devices. Two of our results are seen as especially important to the field of nanomagnetic computing: (1) we show that it is possible to operate nanomagnetic computers at the fundamental thermodyanimic limits of computation and (2) we develop a nanomagnet with a unique shape that is engineered to significantly improve the reliability of nanomagnetic logic.

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