Nanodot-based memory sets new world speed record

April 18, 2012

Record speed, low-voltage, and ultra-small size make nanodots a "triple threat" for electronic memory in computers and other electronic devices.

A team of researchers from Taiwan and the University of California, Berkeley, has harnessed nanodots to create a new technology that can write and erase data 10-100 times faster than today's mainstream charge-storage memory products. The new system uses a layer of non-conducting material embedded with discrete (non-overlapping) silicon nanodots, each approximately 3 nanometers across. Each nanodot functions as a single memory bit. To control the memory operation, this layer is then covered with a thin metallic layer, which functions as a "metal gate." The metal gate controls the "on" and "off" states of the transistor. The results are published in the American Institute of Physics' (AIP) journal .

"The metal-gate structure is a mainstream technology on the path toward nanoscale complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) ," said co-author Jia-Min Shieh, researcher, National Nano Device Laboratories, Hsinchu, Taiwan. "Our system uses numerous, discrete silicon nanodots for charge storage and removal. These charges can enter (data write) and leave (data erase) the numerous discrete nanodots in a quick and simple way."

The researchers were able to achieve this new milestone in speed by using ultra-short bursts of light to selectively anneal (activate) specific regions around the metal layer of the metal gate of the memory. Since the sub-millisecond bursts of laser light are so brief and so precise, they are able to accurately create gates over each of the nanodots. This method of is particularly robust, the researchers explain, because if an individual charge in one of the nano-sites failed, it would barely influence the others. This enables a stable and long-lived data storage platform.

"The materials and the processes used for the devices are also compatible with current main-stream integrated circuit technologies," explains Shieh. "This technology not only meets the current CMOS process line, but can also be applied to other advanced-structure devices."

Explore further: Carbon-Nanotube Memory that Really Competes

More information: "Fast Programming Metal-Gate Si Quantum Dot Nonvolatile Memory Using Green Nanosecond Laser Spike Annealing" by Yu-Chung Lien et al. is published in Applied Physics Letters.

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not rated yet Apr 18, 2012
So, what does this do for Moore's Law?
not rated yet Apr 18, 2012
I don't know. It looks like this will make petabyte drives possible for individual consumers PC (or even hand held gadgeet?!) by the time you stack a few layers, and at about the same price that a terabyte drive costs right now.

What exactly we'll do with this storage space, I don't know.

One petabyte is enough space to store a 280 page auto-biography for every person on Earth, and of course, that's just one of such drives.
not rated yet Apr 18, 2012
That's about 10GB per sq cm if spaced out.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2012
You could store the entire 3-d molecular blueprint for small macroscopic organisms, not just their DNA code. i.e. insects, seeds, perhaps even some of the smallest amphibians and mammals, at least certainly the molecular blueprint of their gamets, and possibly the molecular blueprint of juvenile organisms.

Why bother?

The ability to some day reconstruct cellular life from the molecular level upwards, for example, in terra-forming and populating a distant planet, WITHOUT the need for transporting actual specimens of the life forms to the site.

Well, that's what a petabyte of memory could do.
not rated yet Apr 18, 2012

"What exactly we'll do with this storage space, I don't know." - Lurker
3 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2012
Every time somebody creates larger storage sizes, we get people who say 'who would ever need that much space', we will always find a way.
not rated yet Apr 18, 2012
Every time somebody creates larger storage sizes, we get people who say 'who would ever need that much space', we will always find a way.

most of what is used is for nothing more than entertainment.

For the most part, I hardly use more than about 5 to 10% of my computer's capacity.

Do you have any idea how many man-years it would take to produce a top ten quality video game that uses that much memory? It took Blizzard Entertainment nearly 10 years to make Starcraft 2, and I think the files are about 5 gigabytes total.

Color depth and pixel counts are already beyond the capacity of most humans to distinguish the difference, and actually have been for some time.

Even Vendi's videos and porn? You couldn't possibly watch that much in your life time, if it was 4 times our current resolution and color depth, and in 3-d...
not rated yet Apr 19, 2012
So, what does this do for Moore's Law?

Unless it's implemented, manufactured and sold: not much.

What exactly we'll do with this storage space, I don't know.

Plenty of industrial applications for large strorage volumes. Especially in medicine where 3D scanners (CT, MR, 3D ultrasound, PET, etc.) are fast becoming the norm. Double the resolution and you increase the data volume 8-fold. Astronomical data is also very storage intensive.

For your home applications? Not much use there. The fallout will likely be smaller drives with less power consumption than the same capacity ones you have today.

5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2012
Are they comparing it to DRAM or Flash memory? Both are "charge-storage memory", which makes the article highly confusing.

It seems that the device has 1 us programming time, which is actually really really slow compared to DRAM, which runs in the nanoseconds.

The problem of modern computers is actually slow working memory, which necessitates elaborate caching schemes and creates scalability bottlenecks for multiprocessor and multi-core systems. Getting faster hard drives is one thing, but sharing the data between multiple processing units is still a really difficult problem because it takes so long to move it around.

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