New 'FeTRAM' is promising computer memory technology

Sep 27, 2011 by Emil Venere
This diagram shows the layout for a new type of computer memory that could be faster than the existing commercial memory and use far less power than flash memory devices. The technology, called FeTRAM, combines silicon nanowires with a "ferroelectric" polymer, a material that switches polarity when electric fields are applied, making possible a new type of ferroelectric transistor. (Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University)

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers are developing a new type of computer memory that could be faster than the existing commercial memory and use far less power than flash memory devices.

The technology combines silicon with a "ferroelectric" polymer, a material that switches polarity when electric fields are applied, making possible a new type of ferroelectric transistor.

"It's in a very nascent stage," said doctoral student Saptarshi Das, who is working with Joerg Appenzeller, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and scientific director of at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center.

The ferroelectric transistor's changing polarity is read as 0 or 1, an operation needed for digital circuits to store information in binary code consisting of sequences of ones and zeroes.

The new technology is called FeTRAM, for ferroelectric transistor .

"We've developed the theory and done the experiment and also showed how it works in a circuit," he said.

Findings are detailed in a research paper that appeared this month in , published by the American Chemical Society.

The FeTRAM technology has nonvolatile storage, meaning it stays in memory after the computer is turned off. The devices have the potential to use 99 percent less energy than flash memory, a non-volatile chip and the predominant form of memory in the commercial market.

"However, our present device consumes more power because it is still not properly scaled," Das said. "For of FeTRAM technologies one of the main objectives will be to reduce the . They might also be much faster than another form of called SRAM."

The FeTRAM technology fulfills the three basic functions of computer memory: to write information, read the information and hold it for a long period of time.

"You want to hold memory as long as possible, 10 to 20 years, and you should be able to read and write as many times as possible," Das said. "It should also be low power to keep your laptop from getting too hot. And it needs to scale, meaning you can pack many devices into a very small area. The use of silicon nanowires along with this ferroelectric polymer has been motivated by these requirements."

The new technology also is compatible with industry manufacturing processes for complementary metal oxide semiconductors, or CMOS, used to produce computer chips. It has the potential to replace conventional memory systems.

A patent application has been filed for the concept.

The FeTRAMs are similar to state-of-the-art ferroelectric random access memories, FeRAMs, which are in commercial use but represent a relatively small part of the overall semiconductor market. Both use ferroelectric material to store information in a nonvolatile fashion, but unlike FeRAMS, the new technology allows for nondestructive readout, meaning information can be read without losing it.

This nondestructive readout is possible by storing information using a ferroelectric transistor instead of a capacitor, which is used in conventional FeRAMs.

Explore further: Pinpoint laser heating creates a maelstrom of magnetic nanotextures

More information: FETRAM. An Organic Ferroelectric Material Based Novel Random Access Memory Cell

ABSTRACT
Science and technology in the electronics area have always been driven by the development of materials with unique properties and their integration into novel device concepts with the ultimate goal to enable new functionalities in innovative circuit architectures. In particular, a shift in paradigm requires a synergistic approach that combines materials, devices and circuit aspects simultaneously. Here we report the experimental implementation of a novel nonvolatile memory cell that combines silicon nanowires with an organic ferroelectric polymer—PVDF-TrFE—into a new ferroelectric transistor architecture. Our new cell, the ferroelectric transistor random access memory (FeTRAM) exhibits similarities with state-of the-art ferroelectric random access memories (FeRAMs) in that it utilizes a ferroelectric material to store information in a nonvolatile (NV) fashion but with the added advantage of allowing for nondestructive readout. This nondestructive readout is a result of information being stored in our cell using a ferroelectric transistor instead of a capacitor—the scheme commonly employed in conventional FeRAMs.

Related Stories

Small and stable ferroelectric domains

Mar 28, 2011

Researchers are one step closer to figuring out a way to make nano-sized ferroelectric domains more stable, reports a new study in journal Science.

Fundamental discovery could lead to better memory chips

Mar 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Engineering researchers at the University of Michigan have found a way to improve the performance of ferroelectric materials, which have the potential to make memory devices with more storage ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Chemically driven micro- and nanomotors

Dec 17, 2014

At least since the movie "The Fantastic Voyage" in 1966, in which a submarine is shrunk down and injected into the blood stream of a human, people have been toying with the idea of sending tiny "micromachines" ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bowler_4007
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2011
One word "cooooool". i do hope that a few of the technologies being engineered around the world become widespread, i long for the day when computers operate at mind boggling speed with low power usage and low heat output
holoman
not rated yet Sep 27, 2011
Not until the densities are there will this memory be
competive with flash. For 20 years ferroelectrics has been
advertised as low power and fast, but density has not broken the 512k mark which is obsolete for other memory.
CHollman82
3 / 5 (2) Sep 27, 2011
Not until the densities are there will this memory be
competive with flash. For 20 years ferroelectrics has been
advertised as low power and fast, but density has not broken the 512k mark which is obsolete for other memory.


512k is a near infinity when you work on embedded systems like I do, I can do more with half a meg of memory than you can imagine. Speed is FAR more important than capacity in the work I do, if we need more capacity we just use more than one chip, but speed is paramount as part of the work I do involves measuring light reflectance (backscatter) in an optical fiber as frequently as possible. We currently measure with 1/8 meter resolution, or about 2.4 billion times per second. Faster memory means higher resolution measurements.
holoman
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
I know all your market talk points. It still doesn't address the
single chip capacity issue. Flash is the heavy weight and cheap.

Ferroelectrics is like nuclear fusion, a someday technology.
CHollman82
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2011
I know all your market talk points. It still doesn't address the
single chip capacity issue.


The point is there are more uses for chips like this where capacity > 100's of kilobytes is irrelevant than there are uses where large capacity is important.

All you're thinking of is a thumb drive to store your porn videos on... nonvolatile memory does a lot more than that. 512k is PLENTY for most embedded applications, and the vast majority of all types or RAM manufactured in the world are used in such embedded applications, not by consumers for data storage.

This memory could be used in a refrigerator, or a child's toy, or a vehicle, or a hand held device, or an alarm clock, or a stereo, or blender, or a GPS, or whatever... most memory is used in this way, not to store home videos on a thumb drive.

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.