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Stanford-Led Experiments Point Toward Memory Chips 1,000 Times Faster Than Today's

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How data is stored using phase-change memory technology.

Experiments at Stanford University could form the basis of phase-change memory capable of permanent and faster data storage.

Credit: Tricia Seibold

Experiments led by Stanford University are exploring a new class of semiconductor materials that could form the basis of phase-change memory capable of faster and permanent data storage.

"This work is fundamental but promising," says Stanford professor Aaron Lindenberg 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."

Phase-change materials can exist in two different atomic structures, and they preserve whatever electronic state conforms to their structure. Once their atoms flip or flop to form a 1 or a 0, the material stores that data until another burst of energy induces change.

The researchers measured the intermediate phase when the material's amorphous structure, which inhibits electron flows, starts switching to a crystalline arrangement, determining it occurred less than a picosecond after the electrical jolt.

The research suggests phase-change memory could greatly overtake silicon random-access memory's speed for tasks requiring memory-processor interoperation for computation.

The researchers also say the experimental results imply such materials could execute superfast memory operations and permanent storage, depending on the duration of the thermal excitation's retention within the memory.

From Stanford News
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