For all the technology we use to store data, there is one problem that has no good solution: longevity. Some scientists at the University of Pennsylvania - home of some of the first computers - have developed a new kind of memory that is 1,000x faster than flash and should hold its contents for 100,000 years.
Phase change memory The Penn folks have come with a new wrinkle on phase change memory which is already used in recordable CDs and DVDs. The phase changes from a disordered amorphous state to a an ordered crystalline state. Resistance and reflectivity change as well and encode the 1's and 0's of binary data.
The goal is to build phase change memory chips instead of optical media. Intel, Hynix, Samsung and others have licensed the technology from Ovonyx, a company dedicated to commercializing the technology.
So what's cool? The new technology has several advantages:
- The phase-change nanowires are self-assembling, so they are simpler than traditional semiconductor manufacturing, where Ovonyx is focused.
- Data writing, erasing and retrieval time of 50 ns - 1,000 times faster than flash - fast enough to replace DRAM in many applications.
- Scalable to terabit - flash is currently a few gigabits - chip densities
- 100,000 year data retention - assuming anyone is around to read it then
The only not-cool thing: the research leader, Prof. Ritesh Agarwal, predicts it will be 8-10 years before commercial products ship. Darn and double-darn.
The Storage Bits take Flash is a great technology, but it's American to want something better. Feature sizes are getting so small that even deep ultra-violet semiconductor processing is coming to the end of the road. Nano-scale self-assembly, as at Penn and in my prior post - Engineering the 10 TB notebook drive - is promising continued progress without relying on electron beam lithography and other exotic techniques.
Storage progress will continue and I, for one, couldn't be happier. For more on the work at Penn read the article at Physorg.com.
Comments welcome, as always.