Research | News

U Iowa Researchers Tackle Cheap Magnetic to Optical Data Transfer for Plastic Chips

Cheap, flexible computers may be one step closer to reality, thanks to researchers at the University of Iowa (UI) and New York University (NYU).

In a new paper at Nature Communications, the researchers, led by UI Professor of Physics and Astronomy Michael Flatté, described how they were able to efficiently convert information stored magnetically to information stored in light for fiber optic transmission.

"Although it's relatively cheap and easy to encode information in light for fiber optic transmission," according to a news release, "storing information is most efficiently done using magnetism, which ensures information will survive for years without any additional power."

"Although it does not cost a lot of energy to convert one to the other in ordinary, silicon-chip-based computers, the energy cost is very high for flexible, plastic computing devices that are hoped to be used for inexpensive 'throwaway' information processors," said Flatté, in a prepared statement. "Here we show an efficient means of converting information encoded in magnetic storage to light in a flexible plastic device."

The researchers used magnetic fields from storage devices to modify light emissions in order to encode the data without electrical current flowing between the magnet and the device and at room temperature.

"This could help solve problems of storage and communication for new types of inexpensive, low-power computers based on conducting plastics," said coauthor Markus Wohlgenannt, in a prepared statement.

The team's studies used large devices but, according to Andrew Kent, coauthor and NYU physicist, the same principles should be useful on miniaturized devices.

For more information, visit

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at

THE News Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.