Memory Breakthrough Could Lead to Fewer Mobile Recharges

Engineers at the University of Illinois have developed a form of ultra low power, non volatile memory that could provide consumers with hand-held devices that last weeks or even months between recharging.

The study was led by professor Eric Pop and the results were published at the end of last week in Science Express.

So far, the team has been able to store few hunder bits of data. They hope to increase production to create arrays of memory bits that can function together.

In addition, they plan to create multi-bit memory, similar to multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash based SSD's, to achieve increased data density.

An exisiting technology, phase change memory (PCM) forms the basis for this research. However, instead of using metal wires as resistors, the team used carbon nanotubes that are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair and use far less power than standard PCM

The engineers said that to create a bit of data using their technology they place a small amount of PCM in a nonoscale gap formed in the middle of a carbon nanotune which is 10 nanometers wide. They can switch the bit 'on' and 'off' by passing small currents through the nanotube.

They say that the technology uses 100 times less energy which is what goves the opportunity for portable devices to have a much longer battery life. They are also looking to further reduce power consumption by further improving energy efficiency.

"Even though we've taken one technology and shown that it can be improved by a factor of 100, we have not yet reached what is physically possible. We have not even tested the limits yet. I think we could lower power by at least another factor of 10." Pop said.

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