New device may revolutionize computer memory

Jan 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new device that represents a significant advance for computer memory, making large-scale "server farms" more energy efficient and allowing computers to start more quickly.

Traditionally, there are two types of computer memory devices. Slow memory devices are used in persistent data storage technologies such as flash drives. They allow us to save information for extended periods of time, and are therefore called nonvolatile devices. Fast memory devices allow our computers to operate quickly, but aren’t able to save data when the computers are turned off. The necessity for a constant source of power makes them volatile devices.

But now a research team from NC State has developed a single “unified” device that can perform both volatile and nonvolatile memory operation and may be used in the main memory.

“We’ve invented a new device that may revolutionize ,” says Dr. Paul Franzon, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. “Our device is called a double floating-gate field effect transistor (FET). Existing nonvolatile memory used in devices utilizes a single floating gate, which stores charge in the floating gate to signify a 1 or 0 in the device – or one ‘bit’ of information. By using two floating gates, the device can store a bit in a nonvolatile mode, and/or it can store a bit in a fast, volatile mode – like the normal main memory on your computer.”

The double floating-gate FET could have a significant impact on a number of computer problems. For example, it would allow computers to start immediately, because the computer wouldn’t have to retrieve start-up data from its hard drive – the data could be stored in its main memory.

The new device would also allow “power proportional computing.” For example, Web server farms, such as those used by Google, consume an enormous amount of power – even when there are low levels of user activity – in part because the server farms can’t turn off the power without affecting their main memory.

“The double floating-gate FET would help solve this problem,” Franzon says, “because data could be stored quickly in – and retrieved just as quickly. This would allow portions of the server memory to be turned off during periods of low use without affecting performance.”

Franzon also notes that the research team has investigated questions about this technology’s reliability, and that they think the device “can have a very long lifetime, when it comes to storing data in the volatile mode.”

Explore further: World's first successful use of an electric circuit to compensate for distortions in electric signals due to heat

More information: The paper, “Computing with Novel Floating-Gate Devices,” will be published Feb. 10 in IEEE’s Computer. The paper was authored by Franzon; former NC State Ph.D. student Daniel Schinke; former NC State master’s student Mihir Shiveshwarkar; and Dr. Neil Di Spigna, a research assistant professor at NC State. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Related Stories

Organic flash memory developed

Dec 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a non-volatile memory that has the same basic structure as a flash memory but is made from cheap, flexible, organic materials.

Faster, more durable flash memory sought out for project

Oct 29, 2010

USB flash drives have become nearly ubiquitous and are now dressed out as everything from Winnie the Pooh to hand grenades. But to further expand flash memory’s use in such applications as the main memory of a computer, ...

GPS not working? A shoe radar may help you find your way

Dec 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The prevalence of global positioning system (GPS) devices in everything from cars to cell phones has almost made getting lost a thing of the past. But what do you do when your GPS isn’t working? Researchers ...

Scientific discovery moves racetrack memory closer to reality

Dec 23, 2010

IBM researchers today revealed a previously unknown aspect of key physics inside Racetrack memory -- a new technology design which stands to improve memory capabilities within mobile phones, laptop computers and business-class ...

Recommended for you

N. Korea suffers another Internet shutdown

5 hours ago

North Korea suffered an Internet shutdown for at least two hours on Saturday, Chinese state-media and cyber experts said, after Pyongyang blamed Washington for an online blackout earlier this week.

Sony's PlayStation 'gradually coming back'

5 hours ago

Sony was still struggling Saturday to fully restore its online PlayStation system, three days after the Christmas day hack that also hit Microsoft's Xbox, reporting that services were "gradually coming back."

Chattanooga touts transformation into Gig City

5 hours ago

A city once infamous for the smoke-belching foundries that blanketed its buildings and streets with a heavy layer of soot is turning to lightning-fast Internet speeds to try to transform itself into a vibrant ...

Uber broke Indian financial rules: central bank chief

5 hours ago

India's central bank chief lashed out at Uber, already under fire over the alleged rape of a passenger, saying the US taxi-hailing firm violated the country's financial regulations by using an overseas payment ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet Jan 20, 2011
Ooh, this would help 'Solid State Drives' (SSD) too !!
lengould100
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 20, 2011
It's not clear from the article why adding a second floating gate to an NVRAM FET speeds its performance up to make it competitive with DRAM. It would help if the article presented some comparative performance statistics, eg. how much would this memory impact my machine's performance?
Yogaman
5 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2011
Why would UNC write an article as empty of information as this?
KAB
not rated yet Jan 20, 2011
Because you can read the article once its published, or check their website--could be more info.
nuge
5 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2011
Seriously, buxing, cut it out.
gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2011
Seriously, buxing, cut it out.
They're making new usernames all the time, presumably because PhysOrg keeps disabling them.

Please, everybody press the "report_abuse" link. Only then can we get enough momentum that PhysOrg will do something more about it.
georgeb1962
5 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2011
I've seen articles like this from as far back as decades ago... it never seems to make it into any products. I don't trust this article for as far as I can throw the server farm that served it!
guiding_light
5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2011
I think it combines the weaknesses of DRAM and flash more effectively than the strengths!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.