Feeds

New super-Flash chips to run on SiOx, not graphite

'They said I was mad! But they'll all be very sorry'

High performance access to file storage

Stateside chip boffins say they have developed a radical new method of building memory, which will smash through the "brick wall" that Moore's Law is about to run into.

The underlying technique was thought to be dependent on the use of graphite, but in fact this has now been shown to be untrue. A plucky grad student studying at Rice university, Jun Yao, was convinced that the tiny nanometre-scale devices built in the lab didn't need carbon at all.

"It was a really difficult time for me, because people didn't believe it," says Yao. Yao's results indicated that in fact ordinary silicon oxide could be used to make and break connections.

"It doesn't matter how many people don't believe it," says Yao, grimly. "What matters is whether it's true or not."

"Other group members didn't believe him," confirms Professor James Tour, in charge of the lab. The prof adds that nobody recognized silicon oxide's potential, even though it's "the most-studied material in human history".

"Most people, when they saw this effect, would say, 'Oh, we had silicon-oxide breakdown,' and they throw it out," says Tour. "It was just sitting there waiting to be exploited."

Essentially the new device works by sandwiching non-conductive silicon oxide between sheets of polycrystalline silicon, which serve as the electrodes. Applying a charge to the electrodes creates a conductive pathway by stripping oxygen atoms from the silicon oxide and forming a chain of nano-sized silicon crystals. Once formed, the chain can be repeatedly broken and reconnected by applying a pulse of varying voltage.

This method should allow the construction of chip circuitry as small as five nanometres wide. As an added benefit, it will allow creation of switches or memory bits with only two pathways - rather than three, as seen in current flash memory.

"Manufacturers feel they can get pathways down to 10 nanometers. Flash memory is going to hit a brick wall at about 20 nanometers. But how do we get beyond that? Well, our technique is perfectly suited for sub-10-nanometer circuits," says Tour.

Furthermore, Yao's kit can easily be stacked to make 3-D, super dense information storage.

"I've been told by industry that if you're not in the 3-D memory business in four years, you're not going to be in the memory business. This is perfectly suited for that," enthuses Tour.

The researchers claim that their process, now fully understood, offers all the benefits of the previous graphite plan: "high on-off ratios, excellent endurance and fast switching (below 100 nanoseconds)". They add that silicon-oxide devices will also be resistant to the effects of radiation, unlike today's ordinary computers, which should mean strong military interest.

The assembled boffins' paper - lead author Jun Yao - can be read here by subscribers to Nano Letters. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Seagate brings out 6TB HDD, did not need NO STEENKIN' SHINGLES
Or helium filling either, according to reports
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
Bored with trading oil and gold? Why not flog some CLOUD servers?
Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans cloud spot exchange
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.