A Year Ago: Memory breakthrough puts movie on a chip

First published: Tue, 18 May 1999 16:07:57 GMT

A team of scientists funded by Hitachi and based at Cambridge University claims to have created a low powered high memory yield technology capable of holding all images and sound from an entire movie.

The device, called Phase State Low Electron(hole)-number Drive Memory or PLEDMTM for short, is the first tangible product to emerge from the Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory (HCL) since it was established in 1989. It has the potential to shake-up not just the memory industry but also the desktop and mobile storage industries.

It is already being earmarked by the Laboratory as ideal for mobile PCs and phones which it says will make them "lighter and more economical," according to a statement from HCL.

The Laboratory claimed that, "with more work, it will also solve the current performance trade-offs experienced with DRAM (high speed but volatile memory) and Flash memory (slower but non volatile)."

This will put the PLEDMTM chip on a collision course with conventional memory and also storage devices such as hard disks, as well as putting Hitachi in a very strong position within the semiconductor and storage industries.

"It's of massive interest," said Nick Mongston, sales and marketing manager at Agfa's Digital Division. "It would upset the whole market. If it can store a whole movie it's frightening what it could do with other forms of data and images. You could put it into a camera and go on holiday for a whole month without having to download any images."

Mongston added it won't just change the way products are used, it would change the size of the products as it would remove the need for hardware drives.

The PLEDMTM cell is as small as one standard computer transistor (slightly smaller than a thumbnail) and has a read/write time of less than 10n/sec.

Professor Haroon Ahmed, professor of Microelectronics at Cambridge University confirmed that PLEDMTM will be a "commercially exploitable output" from HCL, it is just a matter of when.

The statement from HCL added that "the PLEDMTM is a promising candidate for the multi-Gbit memory chip which is scheduled to become available early in the next century."

Professor Ahmed added, "it represents a significant step in the path to an electron-number scalable RAM cell and eventually to high speed single electron device technologies."

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