Tuesday, September 21, 2010

#Nanocrystalline Alloy Aims to Boost #PRAM

As flash memory becomes too dense to sidestep atomic-scale errors, many different approaches are being tried to replace the aging technology. Ferroelectric RAM (FRAM), for instance, uses ferroelectric materials to enhance its DRAM-like bit cells, magnetic RAM stores information as magnetism instead of charge, and phase-change RAMs store bits as either an amorphous or crystalline state of its bit cell. Now these researchers claim their new material could enable phase-change memory (PRAM) to win the race to succeed flash. Look for PRAMs to attempt take the baton from flash memories over the next five years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

Diagram shows enthalpy curves sketched for the liquid, crystalline and amorphous phases of a new class of nanomaterials called “BEANs” for Binary Eutectic-Alloy Nanostructures. (Image courtesy of Daryl Chrzan)

Phase-change memory (PCM) technology could profit from a new material that improves performance over traditional materials with binary eutectic-alloy nanostructures (BEANs)...formed into high density arrays of nanowires or quantum dots whose state can be switched from amorphous to crystalline in nanoseconds.

Joel Ager, Daryl Chrzan and Eugene Haller (left to right) claim binary eutectic-alloy nanostructure (BEAN) can enable quantum dots and nanowires a phase-changing memory elements for optical data storage technologies. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)

Traditional PCM materials use chalcogenide glass materials that can be switched crystalline and amorphous states—representing a "1" or "0"—with the application of heat. BEANs works similarly, but is made from an alloy of metal and semiconductor that melts and solidifies at a temperature which is lower than the melting points of a single material...shown to be stable at room temperature for long-term retention in PRAMs...
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