Memory device holds key to green gadgets

March 28, 2011

Fast, low-energy memory for MP3s, smartphones and cameras could become a reality thanks to University of Edinburgh scientists.

Researchers have created a tiny device that improves on existing forms of .

Conventional methods use electronic devices to convert data into signals that are stored as binary code.

This latest device uses a tiny mechanical arm to translate the data into .

This allows for much faster operation and uses much less energy compared with conventional memory storage tools.

The device records data by measuring the current passing through a carbon nanotube.

The binary value of the data is determined by an electrode that controls the flow of current.

Scientists at the University, who helped create the device, say it could offer gadget designers a way to create faster devices with reduced .

Previous attempts to use carbon nanotube transistors for memory storage hit a stumbling block because they had low operational speed and short times.

By using a mechanical arm to charge the electrode - which operates much faster than conventional memory devices - scientists have been able to overcome these problems.

The research, carried out in collaboration with Konkuk University and Seoul National University, Korea, was published in Nature Communications and supported by EaStCHEM.

"This is a novel approach to designing memory storage devices. Using a mechanical method combined with the benefits of nanotechnology enables a system with superior speed and energy efficiency compared with existing devices," said Professor Eleanor Campbell, School of Chemistry.

Explore further: Fast, Robust, and a Blast from the Past, Mechanical Memory Switch Outstrips Chip Technology

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soulman
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
Somehow this just goes against the grain. Is it really an advance to go from solid state memory to mechanical memory?
antialias
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
Yes, because the read/write cycles are limited for SSDs. We also need to get away from thinking that 'mechanical' is equivalent to 'slow' or 'cumbersome'. On the nano (and especially on the atomic) scale mechanical interactions can be very fast.
soulman
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2011
Yes, because the read/write cycles are limited for SSDs.

That is true, but that is only a theoretical consideration as almost by definition, electronic 'gadgets' have a limited lifetime, probably less than two years, so that's not such a big factor. Also wear leveling controllers help to extent lifetimes. But heck, you can't even replace a battery in an iPhone, which is a much bigger limitation.

We also need to get away from thinking that 'mechanical' is equivalent to 'slow' or 'cumbersome'.

Actually, that wasn't my main objection. It's more a question of fragility and mechanical wear than anything else. No moving parts is better than some moving parts.

But, anyway, if it can be made to work better and have equal or better durability, then my objection is purely philosophical.
antialias
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
Actually, that wasn't my main objection. It's more a question of fragility and mechanical wear than anything else. No moving parts is better than some moving parts.

This, too, doesn't hold on the nano scale. It's actually more of a problem for high voltage electric devices (e.g. nanodots for use in plasma TVs have a high rate of wear just because the electrons emitted are of such a high energy that they occasionally take an atom with them)

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