A recent study* at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) may have revealed the optimal characteristics for a new type of computer memory now under development. The work, performed in collaboration with researchers from George Mason University (GMU), aims to optimize nanowire-based charge-trapping memory devices, potentially illuminating the path to creating portable computers and cell phones that can operate for days between charging sessions.
The nascent technology is based on silicon formed into tiny wires, approximately 20 nanometers in diameter. These "nanowires" form the basis of memory that is non-volatile, holding its contents even while the power is off—just like the flash memory in USB thumb drives and many mp3 players. Such nanowire devices are being studied extensively as the possible basis for next-generation computer memory because they hold the promise to store information faster and at lower voltage.
Nanowire memory devices also hold an additional advantage over flash memory, which despite its uses is unsuitable for one of the most crucial memory banks in a computer: the local cache memory in the central processor.
"These findings create a platform for experimenters around the world to further investigate the nanowire-based approach to high-performance non-volatile memory," says Qiliang Li, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at GMU. "We are optimistic that nanowire-based memory is now closer to real application."
* X. Zhu, Q. Li, D. Ioannou, D. Gu, J.E. Bonevich, H. Baumgart, J. Suehle and C.A. Richter. Fabrication, characterization and simulation of high performance Si nanowire-based non-volatile memory cells. Nanotechnology, May 16, 2011, 22 254020 doi: 10.1088/0957-4484/22/25/254020.
Contact: Chad Boutin email@example.com 301-975-4261 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)