MICROPROCESSOR, PCTECH NEWS

Memory Device Developed by USC Viterbi School of Engineering Shows Record Performance

Novel Technology Extends Battery Life, Increases Upload Speed, and Reduces Data Corruption

Memory devices come in many forms. From USB sticks, to external hard-drives, to chips implanted directly into smartphones. What makes one better than another is usually a combination of new, groundbreaking materials and the novel device structure. The better the materials, and the way those materials are creatively designed to build the ultimate structure, the better the memory device is. Now, researchers have published a piece in Nature Electronics about their creation of a memory device with improved material and structure and which promises to increase data upload speed, extend smartphone battery life, and reduce data corruption.

Han Wang, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering (USC Viterbi), along with postdoctoral scholar Jiangbin Wu, PhD students Hung-Yu Chen and Xiaodong Yan, have achieved this through a concept called the ferroelectric tunneling junction (FTJ).

Memory Device research breakthrough
A schematic of the research team’s new Memory Device (Photo Credit: Xiaodong Yan)

This new memory device is part of a family known as non-volatile memory devices, meaning they can be unplugged and still retain their data, much like cell phone memory and USB flash drives. Unlike current FTJ devices, this device is comprised of asymmetric metal and semi-metallic graphene materials. By taking these materials and building them into a novel structure, they were  able to exceed the performance of all previously demonstrated FTJs while offering promising prospects for integration with silicon electronics.

Furthermore, the unique ability of these materials to approach atomic-scale thickness can eventually lead to even faster and more energy-efficient FTJ memory down the line. “These materials allow us to build devices that can potentially be scaled to atomic-scale thickness,” Wang said. “This means the voltage required to read, write, and erase data can be drastically reduced which in turn can make the memory electronics much more energy efficient.”

Wang and his fellow researchers hope that with time, their device can be scaled up and may become a replacement not just for the non-volatile memory that we see in cell phones and USB sticks, but also volatile memory like D-RAM storage devices commonly found in computers. In addition, the device may also be engineered to hold multi-bit data states within a single cell, and with its robust endurance and retention, it has promising potential for applications in in-memory computing and other computing hardware.

With annual research expenditures exceeding $207M, USC Viterbi is home to the Information Science Institute and more than 45 other research centers. Its more than 50,000 alumni span the globe.

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Brian Pereira

Brian Pereira is an Indian journalist and editor based in Mumbai. He is the Founding Editor of Digital Creed, which he founded in 2015. A technology buff, former computer instructor, and software developer, Brian has 28 years of journalism experience (since 1994). He is sound and confident about his knowledge of business technology concepts. And he is a believer in continual education/learning. Brian is the former Editor of CHIP and InformationWeek magazines (India). He has written hundreds of technology articles for India's leading newspaper groups such as The Times of India and Indian Express Newspapers (among others). And he has conducted more than 300 industry interviews during his journalism career. Brian also writes on Aviation, cybersecurity, startups, and topics directed at small and medium businesses. He achieved certifications from the EC-Council (Certified Secure Computer User) and from IBM (Basics of Cloud Computing). Apart from those, he has successfully completed many courses on Content Marketing and Business Writing. Follow Brian on Twitter (@creed_digital) and LinkedIn.

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