NEC and Tohoku University have announced the development of the world's first Content Addressable Memory (CAM) that maintains the same high operation speed and non-volatile operation as existing circuits when processing and storing data on a circuit while the power is off. The technology could one day be used to build electronics that start instantly and consume zero electricity while in standby mode.

Circuits draw power when they are on standby - this has always been a problem. In recent years, the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) equipment has steadily increased due to the growth of cloud computing. Most existing equipment requires a short amount of time to get started and internal circuits remain active when the equipment is in standby mode. As a result, the growing consumption of power by ICT equipment in standby mode has become a serious concern.

NEC touts two key features of the new technology: the CAM is nonvolatile while maintaining a high speed, and it uses approximately half the circuit area in comparison to existing technologies. The new CAM is a part of spintronics logic integrated circuit technologies that utilize the negative properties of electrons together with the spin magnetic moment. It leverages the vertical magnetization of vertical domain wall elements in reaction to magnetic substances in order to enable data that is processing within the CAM to be stored on a circuit without using power.

If that jargon really messed with your head, here's what you have to remember: data can be saved on circuits even when power is cut from the CAM. NEC and Tohoku University plan to announce their latest results on June 17, 2011 at the VLSI Circuit Symposium 2011 (June 13-17, Kyoto).