EPFL scientists have developed a new perovskite material with unique properties that can be used to build next-generation hard drives.

As we generate more and more data, we need storage systems, e.g. hard drives, with higher density and efficiency. But this also requires materials whose magnetic properties can be quickly and easily manipulated in order to write and access data on them. EPFL scientists have now developed a perovskite material whose magnetic order can be rapidly changed without disrupting it due to heating. The work, which describes the first ever magnetic photoconductor, is published in Nature Communications.

The lab of Laszló Forró, in a project led by postdoc Bálint Náfrádi, synthesized a ferromagnetic photovoltaic material. Perovskite photovoltaics are gradually becoming a cheaper alternative to current silicon systems, drawing much interest from energy scientists. But this particular material, which is a modified version of perovskite, exhibits some unique properties that make it particularly interesting as a material to build next-generation digital storage systems.

Magnetism in material arises from the interactions of localized and moving electrons of the material; in a way, it is the result of competition between different movements of electrons. This means that the resulting magnetic state is wired in the material and it cannot be reversed without changing the structure of electrons in the material's chemistry or crystal structure. But an easy way to modify magnetic properties would be an enormous advantage in many applications such as magnetic data storage.

The new material that the EPFL scientists developed offers exactly that. "We have essentially discovered the first magnetic photoconductor," says Bálint Náfrádi. This new crystal structure combines the advantages of both ferromagnets, whose magnetic moments are aligned in a well-defined order, and photoconductors, where light illumination generates high density free conduction electrons.

The combination of the two properties produced an entirely new phenomenon: the "melting" of magnetization by photo-electrons, which are electrons that are emitted from a material when light hits it. In the new perovskite material, a simple red LED -- much weaker than a laser pointer -- is enough to disrupt, or "melt" the material's magnetic order and generate a high density of travelling electrons, which can be freely and continuously tuned by changing the light's intensity. The timescale for shifting the magnetic in this material is also very fast, virtually needing only quadrillionths of a second.

Though still experimental, all these properties mean that the new material can be used to build the next generation of memory-storage systems, featuring higher capacities with low energy demands. "This study provides the basis for the development of a new generation of magneto-optical data storage devices," says Náfrádi. "These would combine the advantages of magnetic storage -- long-term stability, high data density, non-volatile operation and re-writability-- with the speed of optical writing and reading." 

A typical CH3NH3(Mn:Pb)I3 crystal developed in this study.
A typical CH3NH3(Mn:Pb)I3 crystal developed in this study.

CAPTION Software written by Jing Li, right, and her students -- including Jialiang Zhang, left -- allows programmers to directly use existing coding languages with the new Liquid Silicon chips. CREDIT Photo courtesy UW-Madison/Stephanie Precourt.

Computer chips in development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison could make future computers more efficient and powerful by combining tasks usually kept separate by design.

Jing Li, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison, is creating computer chips that can be configured to perform complex calculations and store massive amounts of information within the same integrated unit -- and communicate efficiently with other chips. She calls them "liquid silicon."

"Liquid means software and silicon means hardware. It is a collaborative software/hardware technique," says Li. "You can have a supercomputer in a box if you want. We want to target a lot of very interesting and data-intensive applications, including facial or voice recognition, natural language processing, and graph analytics."

The high-speed number-crunching of processors and the data warehousing of big storage memory in modern computers usually fall to two entirely different types of hardware.

"There's a huge bottleneck when classical computers need to move data between memory and processor," says Li. "We're building a unified hardware that can bridge the gap between computation and storage."

Processor and memory chips are typically separately produced by different manufacturing foundries, then assembled together by system engineers on printed circuit boards to make computers and smartphones. The separation means even simple operations, like searches, require multiple steps to accomplish: first fetching data from the memory, then sending that data all the way through the deep storage hierarchy to the processor core.

The chips Li is developing, by contrast, incorporate memory, computation and communication into the same device using a layered design called monolithic 3D integration: silicon and semiconductor circuitry on the bottom connected with solid-state memory arrays on the top using dense metal-to-metal links.

End users will be able to configure the devices to allocate more or fewer resources to memory or computation, depending on what types of applications a system needs to run.

"It can be dynamic and flexible," says Li. "We originally worried it might be too hard to use because there are too many options. But with proper optimization, anyone can take advantage of the rich flexibility offered by our hardware."

To help people harness the new chip's potential, Li's group also is developing software that translates popular programming languages into the chip's machine code, a process called compilation.

"If I just handed you something and said, 'This is a supercomputer in a box,' you might not be able to use it if the programming interface is too difficult," says Li. "You cannot imagine people programming in terms of binary zeroes and ones. It would be too painful."

Thanks to her compilation software, programmers will be able to port their applications directly onto the new type of hardware without changing their coding habits.

To evaluate the performance of prototype liquid silicon chips, Li and her students established an automated testing system they built from scratch. The platform can reveal reliability problems better than even the most advanced industry testing, and multiple companies have sent their chips to Li for evaluation.

Given that testing accounts for more than half the consumer cost of computer chips, having such advanced infrastructure at UW-Madison can help make liquid silicon chips a reality and facilitate future research.

"We can do all types of device-level, circuit-level and system-level testing with our platform," says Li. "Our industry partners told us that our testing system does the entire job of a test engineer automatically."

Li's work is supported by a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award, a first for a computational researcher at UW-Madison. She is one of 25 recipients nationwide receiving as much as $500,000 for two years to fund research on topics ranging from gene therapy to machine learning.

Researchers develop technique to characterize passage of carbon dioxide through rocks, enabling estimation of rocks' potential in suitable locations for use in carbon capture and storage applications

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a relatively new method for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power stations and industrial processes and pushing the greenhouse gas underground to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. Suitable locations for CCS include depleted oil and gas fields or deep aquifers. A detailed understanding of the passage of fluid within the rocks of these target locations is imperative for ensuring that CO2 is stored effectively and leakage risk is minimized.

This level of detail naturally requires state-of-the-art techniques, and one such method is under development at Kyushu University's International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER) and Department of Earth Resources Engineering.

"The idea is that if we can generate a detailed and realistic model of the target reservoir rock, we can precisely determine how the CO2 will displace water," lead and corresponding author Takeshi Tsuji of I2CNER explains. "We can then use the model to help us to estimate the storage capacity and leakage risk for CO2 capture below ground."

There have been many studies of the passage of CO2 through porous rocks, but these rely on relatively simple supercomputer models that typically assume the pores are the same size and shape and are spread uniformly through the rock. "These techniques, and simple laboratory simulations, limit our ability to understand a broad range of potential CO2 storage reservoirs below ground," study coauthor Fei Jiang says. CAPTION Chematic of a sandstone sample receiving CO2 injection, indicating the difference in detail in the simple typical model (left) and the more realistic digital rock model used in the study (right). The greater detail provided by the digital rock model can help to identify the relevant processes of CO2 movement and the rock's potential for CO2 storage in natural rock reservoirs.

The researchers scanned the rocks using X-ray microcomputed tomography, a similar technology to that used in hospitals to see inside the human body, and combined the results with detailed mathematical simulations. Using this "digital rock model," they were able to generate a picture of the real displacement of water by CO2 below ground and identify the optimal conditions for CO2 storage in real rocks.

The application of this approach to a sandstone sample allowed the researchers to examine the movement of fluids inside the rock at an unprecedented level of detail. This enhances understanding of the processes that occur at the micro-scale inside the rock as CO2 is injected. "We were able to identify the main regime for fluid displacement inside our sandstone sample," Tsuji explains, "and because of the properties of our sandstone, we can determine which processes are most dominant in natural rocks that could be used for CO2 storage." In the future, if rock samples are available from a potential reservoir, the method could be used to analyze rock's storage potential and contribute to advancement of CCS as a viable technique for CO2 removal.

The article "Characterization of immiscible fluid displacement processes with various capillary numbers and viscosity ratios in 3D natural sandstone" was published in Advances in Water Resources, at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.advwatres.2016.03.005

International pharmaceutical company’s purchase of Snap family, and certification demonstrates Sphere 3D subsidiary’s leadership in network attached storage market

Sphere 3D Corp., a containerization, virtualization and data management solutions provider, has announced that its subsidiary, Overland Storage has reached the highest level of preferred vendor status for its SnapServer NAS product suitewith a large international pharmaceutical company, Biotest pharmaceuticals.

Established in 2007, Biotest Pharmaceuticals owns and manages plasmapheresis centers across the United States and operates a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Boca Raton, Florida. The company is a subsidiary of Biotest AG which employs approximately 2,100 people worldwide. Its scientists collaborate globallyon plasma research and other academic programs, often managing large amounts of data that require secure and flexible storage solutions. SnapServer includes SnapECR, an encrypted replication feature which allows information to be shared securely amongst all Biotest’s pharmaceutical sites.

With more than 300,000 SnapServerNAS storage units shipped along with the award-winning GuardianOS operating system, SnapServer continues to grain trust forprotecting and managing critical information. Moreover, seamless integration with SnapCLOUD, the company’s virtual enterprise NAS platform available in the Azure Marketplace, enables rapid solution deployment for organizations in a secure, fast and easy way which utilizes a comprehensive hybrid cloud storage infrastructure with centralized management.

Sibrina Shafique, Sphere 3D’s seniordirector, product management and marketing commented, “Significant transformations in the pharmaceutical industry have led to exponential growth in research data, which atmost times is generated in geographically-distributed locations.  SnapServer, a widely deployed data storage solution with operational simplicity, offers high reliability and seamless growth. In a geographically distributed storage deployment, the built-in array of replication tools makes it easy to move the dataaround and the SnapStorage Manager enables centralized management. We believe our SnapCLOUD, SnapSync and SnapServer product family is a game changer for the storage industry and puts us in a unique position to be a single source for a complete private and hybrid cloud experience.”

Biotest completed a thorough and diligent examination of many companies and selected Sphere3D’s Overland Storage subsidiary as its partner of choice to meet its global storage and solution requirements. Sphere 3D’s workflow enhancement provides Biotest with the means to access and store its research safely while accessing and moving collaborative information around the world with other medical professionals and staff. The turnkey SnapServer NAS and SnapCLOUD products enable Biotest to effectively work with its thousands of employees and colleagues worldwide and increase productivity.

PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, welcomes SC'11 visitors to the PRACE activities in Seattle, WA, on November 14–17. Visit us at our booth #5001 (Level 6)!

PRACE Council Chair, Prof. Achim Bachem (FZJ, Germany) will give a keynote speech entitled “PRACE - a vision for a sustainable European HPC infrastructure” on Thursday, November 17 at 8.30am–9.15am in room TCC 303/304.

On Thursday, November 17 at 12:15pm–1:15pm PRACE organizes a BoF session entitled “PRACE – The European HPC Infrastructure” in room TCC 301/302. In this BoF, PRACE Project Manager, Dr. Thomas Eickermann (FZJ, Germany) will give a presentation entitled “Experiences and perspectives after one year of PRACE Operation”. A PRACE user's point of view is given by Ph. D., Research Group Leader Mariano Vázquez (BSC, Spain) in a presentation entitled: “High Performance Computational Biomechanics and PRACE: The perfect marriage.”

The BoF includes information on PRACE's Tier-0 and Tier-1 services, and outstanding research results achieved with PRACE resources. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn how to apply for resources and application support. PRACE representatives will be on hand to chat about everything PRACE, and answer any questions you may have.

PRACE also organizes a treasure hunt at the SC'11 PRACE booth (#5001). Don't miss the chance to win a great prize! PRACE is also presented at PRACE partners' booths.

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