Feeds

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

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

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Gartner's Special Report: Should you believe the hype?
Enough hot air to carry a balloon to the Moon
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Dell The Man shrieks: 'We've got a Bitcoin order, we've got a Bitcoin order'
$50k of PowerEdge servers? That'll be 85 coins in digi-dosh
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.