Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Data Storage Hardware

Researchers Create Cheap, Flexible, Plastic Flash Memory 82

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the cheap-plastic-now-cutting-edge dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Tokyo, led by electrical engineering professor Takao Someya, have created a new kind of low-cost, plastic, flash memory storage device. Although not as dense or stable as its silicon cousin, the plastic flash memory is useful because of its low cost, simple manufacturing process, and potential use in e-paper or other flexible devices. To demonstrate the memory, Someya's group integrated a 676-memory-cell device with a rubber pressure sensor. The flexible sensor-memory device, which is less than 700 micrometers thick, can record pressure patterns and retain them for up to a day."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Researchers Create Cheap, Flexible, Plastic Flash Memory

Comments Filter:
  • by ksd1337 (1029386)
    This sounds like a good idea for transferring content securely. The contents of the memory will degrade in a short time, making it ideal for carrying sensitive data.
    • This sounds like a good idea for transferring content securely. The contents of the memory will degrade in a short time, making it ideal for carrying sensitive data.

      Meh, its very unlikely reliable. I'm sure there are better ways.
      -Taylor

    • by noidentity (188756) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:33PM (#30406484)

      This sounds like a good idea for transferring content securely. The contents of the memory will degrade in a short time, making it ideal for carrying sensitive data.

      There's a difference between unreliably storing data after a day, and reliably destroying all data after a day.

      • True, but combine it with a strong encryption and once a certain amount of data is gone the result become unrecoverable even if the actual password is something as simple as 123.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by noidentity (188756)

          combine it with a strong encryption and once a certain amount of data is gone the result become unrecoverable even if the actual password is something as simple as 123.

          The data degradation pattern is probably consistent for each particular device. So you'd just need to save the current data, then fill the device with various patterns and see how they degrade. If you find for example that particular bits degrade into set after a day, then you know which bits to try flipping in the original data. You reduce

          • The data degradation pattern is probably consistent for each particular device.

            This is a pretty big assumption. Though the smallest feature size is pretty damn small, I would be more inclined to think the deterioration would at least resemble a normal distribution.

      • Sure its great as a cheap alternative, but I wouldn't doubt this is another case where quality is lost when the cheaper element wins over the stable, pricier one in the end.
    • I hope it goes over better than the DivX disposable DVD things.
    • This sounds like a good idea for transferring content securely. The contents of the memory will degrade in a short time, making it ideal for carrying sensitive data.

      So, how is that different from the currently available floppy disks?

    • This sounds like a good idea for transferring content securely. The contents of the memory will degrade in a short time, making it ideal for carrying sensitive data.

      Or you could encrypt the data and destroy the key when you don't need it anymore...

  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Friday December 11, 2009 @03:41PM (#30405870) Journal

    Sounds like the ethics of your typical politician.

  • the next virtual reality. What I mean is, back in the late 80s-90s, virtual reality was thought to be the technology of the future. Now they are out of date and instead somewhat replaced with augmented reality.

    Now with e-book readers, will they get replaced with the e-paper medium. With this flexible memory card and other technology such as the printable circuit board, I can see e-book readers becoming out of date.

    • by maxume (22995)

      They'll just get lighter and still only be as out of date as the material stored on them.

    • Kindle sure sold a lot of models really fast... I don't think we can call ebook readers dead this early in the game.

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:04PM (#30406104) Journal

    Tell me that you haven't heard this before?

    - Flexible displays
    - Flexible PCB's
    - Flexible Chips

    Yes, they've been around since the 80's. But have they ever been used? No!

    • by MikeMacK (788889) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:12PM (#30406184)
      Come on, try and be a little flexible on this...
    • by boristdog (133725)

      Yes, they've been around since the 80's. But have they ever been used? No!

      Maybe THESE flexible materials aren't affected by hair spray, which was used so much in the '80s that it actually burned a hole in the atmosphere.

    • Flexible Chips

      This one time my Tostitos got wet.

    • Flexible PCB's

      Most certainly have been used. I remember taking apart a Polaroid camera when I was a kid, and finding a flexible light brown plastic circuit [unibas.ch] with chips soldered to it.

      • by squizzar (1031726)
        I've seen them in mobile phones and LCD panels as well.
        • Alright.

          Mention ONE brand (with model number) where the PCB, or LCD panels actually where flexible (and no, I'm not mentioning the touchpad, dialpad or keyboard membranes!)

      • Just because you can bend a PCB a few cm, doesn't mean that they're meant to be flexible.

        When I refer to "flexible LCD & PCB" I'm talking about devices that are supposed to be bent in use, such as fold-out-displays or "wrap around electronics".

        • One of the very common example is the laser assembly on almost any optical disc reader [die4laser.com]. This is easy to forget about, even though it most definitely uses a flexible PCB. It's not just for connection, either, because the PCB connects to the laser, often has the adjustment potentiometer soldered on, and connects to the optical pickup block and the focus coils.

          Back of lens unit on Sony DSC camera [ifixit.com]

          Odometer with large flexible PCB [garageprosoftware.com]

          Video game controller [xim360.com] with flexi-PCB layer over rigid PCB, with plenty of S

          • Granted, those are indeed flexible, god knows I've pulled a few lasers out of DVD-burners & Motors for robotics out of printers.

            But it STILL isn't really a flexible PCB with Flexible Chips! It's more like a stiff flat-cable with components attached here and there.

            I wasn't clear enough, my bad - so here:

            A totally flexible PCB, with Flexible chips, so you can eg. wrap it around your wrist, again and again, without damaging it over time, this is very hard to manufacture, let alone a flexible OLED display.

            H

            • by meza (414214)

              Could you give an example or references to a flexible chip invented in the 80's? (which was your initial assumption). I'm honestly just very curious. Maybe then we can figure out why it's still being developed as the "next big thing".

              • Yeah, I'm as curious as you on this area, hence why I call the "fad" card, as we've been filled with news on these stretchable, bendable chips for years, on science tv, documentaries, and whatever magazine you could read before Internet were for anyone.

                There are (was / is) several ways to make chips flexible. The old 80's method was to keep the silicon chip itself ridgid while the the housing itself would be flexible - and the pcb itself of course, flexible resistors are a bit tricky since the resistance va

            • OK, I see now, you're talking about the "wow look at this amazing tech!" rather than "inside these devices are flexible plastic circuits, but you'll never see them, or even guess they are in there" as the ones I linked to. Yes, you're talking of something where everything is basically printed on, such that it is as flexible as a plastic sheet with any other kind of printing.
  • White House email archives.

  • Just think of the applications of plastic memory. Completely undetectable by the security scanners at airports, you can have your high security decryption key on you without having a USB key confiscated to see what is on it, possibly revealing your decryption key. One in the eye to the security nut-jobs who like to confiscate things to see what's on them under pretext of crime prevention / terror.

    • by Coren22 (1625475)

      "Someya's group starts by placing metal transistor gates on top of a plastic substrate. Then a thin layer of aluminum oxide is deposited on top and the plastic film is submerged in a solution containing an insulating polymer."

      I think this might just show on a airport metal detector, but I could be wrong.

      • by pwfffff (1517213)

        It would probably show up just as much as, say, the reflective tape on your biking backpack. Which just happens to be taping down the memory chip.

        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          Not a bad idea, or just wear it under your belt, then you could most likely make it through a metal detector with it on.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      What? Silicon isn't detectable by security scanners, and a micro SD card is small enough to hide anywhere.

  • I keep hearing about awesome revolutionary inventions that are cheap, flexible, and tiny. Super efficient solar panels, screens, memory, everything.

    And yet, somehow, years pass and I never see them actually used in consumer electronics.

    Obviously that's not always the case. E-Ink is something I would have put into that category had it never materialized, for example. But in a general sense I just have trouble getting excited these days.
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      I keep hearing about awesome revolutionary inventions that are cheap, flexible, and tiny. Super efficient solar panels, screens, memory, everything. And yet, somehow, years pass and I never see them actually used in consumer electronics.

      You're just not paying attention. Think back 10 years, and try to figure out how big a device would have had to be in order to perform the same functions as, for example, an iPhone. It would be at least 5 times as thick. Would have cost an thousands of dollars, too. 20 years ago you would have needed a backpack to cart it around in. Technology progresses in small steps, so that you tend to miss it unless you're actually paying attention. It's not until you look at old photographs or videos that you re

      • by SOdhner (1619761)

        Technology progresses in small steps, so that you tend to miss it unless you're actually paying attention.

        I'll agree that that factors into it, yeah - but I'm not talking about the speeding up and shrinking down of technology in general. It's hard to draw the line clearly, but there are inventions that bring an all-new aspect into it (often lately it's about being flexible and made out of pocket lint so that it costs nothing / can be printed out / is biodegradeable) and that's what doesn't show.

        The gradual trend of things getting smaller and faster is a different story, and one I'm pretty pleased with.

  • "Flash" is the name of a specific technology that stores data in the charge accumulated on the gate of a MOSFET. The term you're looking for to describe what this invention is is "EEPROM", which is the category of devices of which Flash is the best known.

    Basically, your comment makes you look stupid, like people who call photocopiers "xeroxes" or vacuum cleaners "hoovers".

    • Try not to offend the guy, I'd hate to have to grab him a kleenex.

    • by julesh (229690)

      Err.. OK, now I've RTFA it seams this _is_ flash memory. The summary is misleading in suggesting that pressure is used in the storage; the prototype was used with a pressure sensor to provide an example application.

    • "EEPROM" is generally only used to refer to nonvolatile memories where individual bits can be erased. Flash memory has to be erased an entire block at a time (where a block is some size much larger than 1 bit).

  • Sounds like it has a ways to go before it catches up with Silly Putty. It's been encoding newsprint for decades, and I believe it would definitely hold the content for more than a day. I hope Rupert Murdoch doesn't get wise to this "technology".
  • This could potentially solve both the unemployment problem AND the DRM problem.

    Just scribes to write the articles, and the company doesn't have to worry about the reader passing along copies because after a day, they'll be unreadable!

  • Cheap is nice. Short term memory -- too close to home for anyone over 40, but one day isn't bad. How fast is it to access, and how large is it relative to Si storage? Those may both be answered in TFA, but I'm too lazy to check. +1 Honesty?

    If this is as fast as traditional large storage formats, and it doesn't take considerably more space, it could be interesting to see this applied to swap space or /tmp type storage... especially if the 1 day reliability can be extended through a refresh cycle.
  • From TFA:

    Ethan Miller, professor of computer science at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says that plastic memory might be incorporated into e-paper. "Suppose you have a sheet with memory and a pressure sensor underneath it--you could write something and store the data, without a scanner," he says.

    Yes, this is very cool. I owned the analog versions some years back:

    http://elab.eserver.org/hfl0257.html [eserver.org]

    And

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_paper [wikipedia.org]

    Now, if you think I'm taking a cheap shot - I'm not. The magic tablet and carbon paper technologies were quite significant and did shape our communications - they both broadened the writing medium.

    This, now, like the things above, possibly becoming cheap enough for ubiquitous use, could have the same effect.

    So - this is one case where "neener neener n

  • Sounds like the standard schwag at every tech conference...
  • I'm sure this is a useful for some applications, but at 676 bits on that large piece of plastic, this thing probably does not even rival core memory in terms of storage density. They got a lot of shrinking to do before this thing can store even one MP3 file.

  • Remember those tape cassettes that went the way of the dinosaurs when CD burners got cheap. They were also plastic and metal oxides. Seems we are just coming back in circles and recycling technologies at the next level.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

Working...