New version of memory could power AI phones, smart devices

(Nanowerk Spotlight) For the first time, researchers from Singapore University of Technology and Design and University of Cambridge, have successfully developed a new version of phase-change memory that reduces the switching time and allows memory cells to produce excellent stability.
“The new type of phase-change memory can be as fast as state-of-the-art RAM chips being considered to power artificial intelligence (AI) in phones, and it could also be used to power a range of other smart devices,” said Assistant Professor Desmond Loke, one of the scientists in the research team.
The new version of phase-change memory, described in December 3 online edition of ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces ("Ultrafast Nanoscale Phase-Change Memory Enabled by Single-Pulse Conditioning"), can also show interesting properties – the size of memory cell could be reduced to just a few nanometers and the power consumption could be vastly reduced.
Transmission electron microscope image of a memory cell with single shot treatment, showing crystals are formed around the glassy area when single pulse is used (left panel). Atomic force microscope image of the pore of memory cell, used to switch the material (right panel)
Transmission electron microscope image of a memory cell with single shot treatment, showing crystals are formed around the glassy area when single pulse is used (left panel). Atomic force microscope image of the pore of memory cell, used to switch the material (right panel).
In traditional phase-change memory, the material can be switched between the glassy amorphous and crystalline ordered states that show distinct differences in physical characteristics, for example, electrical conductance. A few years ago, the team used multiple constant low voltages to reduce the switching time.
In the latest work, the team focused on improving the method, and the technology allows for even further reduction of the switching time. To achieve that, the researchers created a single voltage pulse with high amplitude and moderate duration, otherwise called shot, to produce favourable atomic rearrangement in a material.
Because melting and quenching in the central region of a cell can occur followed closely by crystallization which is separated spatially from the center. The crystal growth rate can also be slower at lower temperatures.
The team found that incorporating the single shot pulse reduces the switching time to 400 picoseconds, and allows cells to produce high stability of the glassy state.
"These findings could play a vital role in creating a new type of phase-change memory, capable of nonvolatile operations at unprecedently fast data-transfer rates," Loke said.
Authors of the ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces paper are Desmond Loke, Jonathan Skelton, Tae Hoon Lee, Rong Zhao, Tow-Chong Chong and Stephen Elliott.
Provided by LBELL Group, Singapore University of Technology and Design
 

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