Bye-Bye Rebooting? Researchers Work to Upgrade Computer Memory;
University of Houston, Sharp Laboratories of America to Develop
Computer Memory Technology
Source: AScribe
Publication date: 04/11/2002
HOUSTON, April 11 (AScribe Newswire) -- A new high-speed, high-capacity computer memory
technology could make rebooting your computer a thing of the past, and may allow PC users to transfer and download large files - such as digital movies - in a few seconds, rather than hours.

Researchers at the University of Houston developed and patented the memory technology, and today announced that Sharp Corp. has exclusively licensed the technology. UH researchers are working with Sharp's subsidiary, Sharp Laboratories of America in Camas, Wash., to develop commercial applications.

"With current computers, if you turn the power off and then turn it back on, you lose whatever
you haven't saved, and you have to reboot, or restart, your system from the beginning," says
Alex Ignatiev, director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials at the University of Houston and one of the developers of the new technology. "Our type of memory is nonvolatile, which means if you turn the power off, everything is still there. You turn your computer back on and it's right where you left off."

The UH researchers have fabricated and tested individual thin film memory elements made of a material called perovskite. The elements can be electrically programmed to change their
resistance, becoming more or less resistive to the passage of electricity. Ignatiev says a commercial memory product using this material would incorporate many thousands or millions of such elements arranged in an array resulting in a resistive memory chip, which would be made to be compatible with current PCs.

This new resistive memory technology may be the next generation of mainstream computer
memory, says Victor Hsu, director of the integrated circuits process technology laboratory at
Sharp Laboratories of America.

"Once integrated into a computer, this type of memory could be ideal for multimedia and
broadband applications, allowing PC users to download information from the Internet at very
high speeds, and allowing much faster processing of high-volume information such as video and graphics," Hsu says.
"We believe once it is fully developed into a commercial chip it will be less expensive than current memory technology." Ignatiev presented information about the technology in November 2001 in San Diego at the 2nd International Nonvolatile Memory Conference. He will present the latest developments of the Sharp Labs collaboration at the International Joint Conference on the Applications of Ferroelectrics 2002, to be held May 28-June 1 in Japan.

Current PCs have two basic kinds of memory. Random access memory, or RAM, is the active
memory, controlled by computer chips, that allows users to run programs, open files and process data, but it does not save information if power is turned off. Mass memory storage, such as the hard drive, permanently stores files and data but operates slowly. Ignatiev says the new resistive random access memory technology could theoretically replace both kinds of memory.

"This resistive memory is a constant, permanent memory, but it's fluid as well, capable of rapidly storing information of any kind in a nonvolatile way," he says. "And it's all electronic, with no mechanical parts such as those used in hard drives to read and store data."

In developing the technology, Ignatiev and his UH colleagues Shangquing Liu and Naijuan Wu
worked with very thin films of perovskite oxides called manganites. When these thin films are
exposed to electrical pulses their resistive properties can be rapidly changed, becoming more or less resistive to the passage of electricity. In other words, their resistance can be programmed, Ignatiev says.

The UH researchers capitalized on the perovskite's unique resistive properties and developed an electrical switching process so that the material could be used to store and retrieve bits of
information. The UH research initially was funded by NASA and by the State of Texas through the Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials, a NASA Commercial Space Center at the University of Houston. The project now is supported by Sharp Laboratories of America.

Sounds interesting, what do you think?