Silicon memory chips come in two broad types: volatile memory, such as computer RAM that loses data when the power is turned off, and nonvolatile flash technologies that store information even after we shut off our smartphones.
In general, volatile memory is much faster than nonvolatile storage, so engineers often balance speed and retention when picking the best memory for the task. That’s why slower flash is used for permanent storage. Speedy RAM, on the other hand, works with processors to store data during computations because it operates at speeds measured in nanoseconds, or billionths of a second.
Now Stanford-led research shows that an emerging memory technology, based on a new class of semiconductor materials, could deliver the best of both worlds, storing data permanently while allowing certain operations to occur up to a thousand times faster than today’s memory devices. The new approach may also be more energy efficient.
“This work is fundamental but promising,” said Aaron Lindenberg, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. “A thousandfold increase in speed coupled with lower energy use suggests a path toward future memory technologies that could far outperform anything previously demonstrated.”
Lindenberg led a 19-member team, including researchers at SLAC, who detailed their experiments in Physical Review Letters.Their findings provide new insights into the experimental technology of phase-change memory. Source: Experiments point toward memory chips 1,000 times faster than today’s