A pioneering type of patented computer memory known as ULTRARAM™ has been demonstrated on silicon wafers in a major step towards its large-scale manufacture.
ULTRARAM™ is a new type of memory with extraordinary properties. It combines the non-volatility of data storage memory, such as flash, with the speed, power efficiency, and endurance of working memory, such as DRAM. It does this by using the unique properties of compound semiconductors, commonly used in photonic devices such as LEDs, laser diodes and infrared detectors, but not in digital electronics, which is unique to silicon.
Originally patented in the United States, other patents on the technology are currently being developed in key technology markets around the world.
Today, in a collaboration between the Departments of Physics and Engineering at Lancaster University and the Department of Physics at Warwick, ULTRARAM™ has been implemented for the very first time on wafers of silicon.
Leading the work, Professor Manus Hayne of the Lancaster Department of Physics, said: “ULTRARAM™ on silicon is a huge step forward for our research, overcoming very important material challenges such as the large crystal lattice mismatch, the transition from the elementary semiconductor to the compound semiconductor and the differences in thermal contraction.”
Digital electronics, which is at the heart of all gadgets from watches and smart phones to personal computers and data centers, uses processors and memory chips made from the semiconductor element silicon.
Due to the maturity of the silicon chip manufacturing industry and the multi-billion dollar cost of building chip factories, the implementation of any digital electronic technology on silicon wafers is essential to its marketing.
Remarkably, ULTRARAM™ on silicon devices actually outperforms previous incarnations of the technology on GaAs compound semiconductor wafers, demonstrating data storage times (extrapolated) of at least 1000 years, speed of fast switching (for the size of the device) and a program erase cycle endurance of at least 10 million, which is a hundred to a thousand times better than flash.
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