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Hardware Science

Computer Memory Can Be Read With a Flash of Light 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the whose-bright-idea-was-this dept.
ananyo writes "A new kind of computer memory can be read 10,000 times faster than flash memory using pulses of light, taking advantage of principles used in solar panel design. Researchers built the prototype device using bismuth ferrite. In conventional computer memory, information is stored in cells that hold different amounts of electric charge, each representing a binary '1' or '0.' Bismuth ferrite, by contrast, and can represent those binary digits, or bits, as one of two polarization states, and, because of its photovoltaic properties, can switch between these states in response to visible light."
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Computer Memory Can Be Read With a Flash of Light

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  • The NSA! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:59PM (#43987435)
    Is reading my computer memory with their flashlights.
  • by 8086 (705094) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:06PM (#43987529) Homepage
    There's no bismuth like show bismuth
  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:08PM (#43987563) Journal

    From the article: "10 micrometres wide"

    So move on. There's nothing to be seen here.

    • by Redeye Carci (2932323) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:13PM (#43987657)
      Yea! Transistors have never bigger then 10 micrometers.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, no kidding. If I could see something ten micrometers wide I'd be working for Intel.

      • by AaronLS (1804210)

        That would be funny. A lab technician standing next to you instead of a microscope(scanning electron... whatever they use) and asking you what you see and you trying to describe it to them in words, or drawing a little picture, lol. Not trying to be mean, just a funny image to me.

        • That would be funny. A lab technician standing next to you instead of a microscope(scanning electron... whatever they use) and asking you what you see and you trying to describe it to them in words, or drawing a little picture, lol. Not trying to be mean, just a funny image to me.

          Almost... From The Far Side: It's a Mammoth [chemistry-blog.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:26PM (#43987837)

    Do we really want bipolar memory with its constant cycling between manic and depressive states?

  • Comparison to PCM (Score:5, Informative)

    by enriquevagu (1026480) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:30PM (#43987891)

    The link to the actual Nature Communications paper is here: Non-volatile memory based on the ferroelectric photovoltaic effect [nature.com].

    This somehow resembles Phase-Change Memory [wikipedia.org] (PCM). PCM devices are composed of a material which, under a high current, there is a thermal fusion and changes to a different material status, from amorphous to crystalline. This changes two properties: light reflectivity (exploited in CDs and DVDs) and electrical resistance (exploited in emerging non-volatile PCM memories). The paper cites PCM and other types of emerging non-volating memories.

    In this case, it is the polarization what changes, without requiring a thermal fusion, therefore increasing the endurance of the device, one of the main shortcomings of PCM. The other main shortcoming of PCM is write speed due to the slow thermal process, in the paper they claim something like 10ns. If this can be manufactured with a large scale of integration and low cost, it will probably be a revolution in computer architecture.

    • by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:54PM (#43988173)
      Had to read through a ton of comments from the uninformed and trolls who think they're funny before finding this one informative comment. Thank you. Where are my mod points?
    • What I find intriguing about the method is that it seems to imply that since the write and read methods are different, you could achieve asynchronous reads and writes -- which could be good or bad, depending on what's happening. Definitely a boost to some custom applications, and a possible revolution in some niche processor architectures. Not sure if it will be viable for generic computation systems.

  • ...Savior Of The Universe ...
  • Bismuth is very slightly radioactive, not sure I'd trust memory that is generating it's own bit-rot via alpha decay.

    • Bismuth is very slightly radioactive, not sure I'd trust memory that is generating it's own bit-rot via alpha decay.

      For very slight values of radioactive. It's half-life time is ~10^20 years. I think I can we can have enough error correction bits to deal with that.

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