Nanocrystal conductors using 'dirt-cheap material' promise massive 3-D storage
Rice researchers create 3-D memory chips that use only silicon -- no carbon
Computerworld - Rice University announced today that scientists there have created the first two-terminal memory chips that use only silicon, extending the limits of miniaturization subject to Moore's Law.
The new technology places multiple layers of memory capacity on the same chip, creating what is referred to as a 3-D memory architecture.
According to a Rice University spokesman, the new memory technology will improve scalability by an order of magnitude compared to NAND flash technology available today. "The fact that they can do this in 3D makes makes it highly scalable," he said. "We've got memory that's made out of dirt-cheap material and it works."
In 2008, researchers at the university showed how electrical currents could repeatedly break and reconnect 10-nanometer strips of graphite, which could potentially boost flash memory capacity by many times. The Rice researchers said then that the new technology could withstand radiation and temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius that would cause solid-state disk memory to disintegrate.
At the time, the research team acknowledged that they weren't sure why their discovery worked so well. With the latest finding, the research team, including professors James Tour, Douglas Natelson and Lin Zhong, proved the circuit doesn't need the carbon to function, only silicon.
During the project, Jun Yao, a graduate student in Tour's lab, was able to confirm the hypothesis when he sandwiched an insulating layer of silicon oxide between semiconducting sheets of polycrystalline silicon that served as the top and bottom electrodes, Rice said.
Yao applied a charge to the electrodes, which created a conductive pathway by stripping oxygen atoms from the silicon oxide, forming a chain of nanometer-sized silicon crystals. Once formed, the chain can be repeatedly broken and reconnected by applying a pulse of varying voltage, the University said.
"It is more than 5 times denser than 20 nanometer flash ... without 3D stacking," Zhong said. "I would argue the nanowire-based solution is much more amenable to vertical stacking, which makes the technology very scalable as process technology improves. The density can be further doubled or tripled with two or three layers."
Unlike NAND flash memory, which is controlled by three terminals or wires, the new silicon memory requires two terminals, making it more viable for three-dimensional or stacked silicon arrays -- multiplying a chip's capacity. But like flash memory, chips made with silicon consume virtually no power while keeping data intact.
The nanocrystal wires are as small as 5 nanometers wide. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.
"The beauty of it is its simplicity," said Tour, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and computer science, in a statement.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Using VM Archiving to Solve VM Sprawl This CommVault whitepaper discusses how archiving virtual machines can mitigate VM sprawl with a comprehensive approach to VM lifecycle management.
- Keep Your Network Available, Efficient and Secure Make the most of your network by working with experts who "get it." CDW and F5 have partnered to keep networks highly optimized....
- VCE Converged Infrastructure Enables Continuous Operation for Swiss Power Plant Read how Vblock™ Systems, running in active-active mode, enabled KKL to transform its twin data centers in just two months, enable continuous operations,...
- The Future of IT: A Customer First Approach Explore how customer-first policies can make use of social, mobile and cloud technologies to give workers the freedom and flexibility they desire to...
- Make or Break: New Auto Products Must Go To Market On Time This Webcast quantifies the value of time to market for the auto industry and highlights how Primavera Enterprise Portfolio Management can help organizations.
- IBM Flash Webcast: Optimizing your Datacenter for Efficient Storage & ROI Register for this webcast to learn the benefits of flash storage from IBM Customer, Leonardo Irastorza of Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd and Storage... All Data Storage White Papers | Webcasts