Electronic memory devices may soon gain the ability to bend and twist, as a result of work by engineers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Though not yet ready for the marketplace, the new memory device is promising because it appears to possess the characteristics of a memristor, a fundamentally new component for electronic circuits that industry scientists developed in 2008.
To create the device, the researchers took polymer sheets and experimented with depositing a thin film of titanium dioxide on their surfaces.
Instead of using expensive equipment to deposit the titanium dioxide as is traditionally done, the material was deposited by a sol gel process, which consists of spinning the material in liquid form and letting it set.
By adding electrical contacts, the team created a flexible memory switch that operates on less than 10V, maintains its memory when power is lost, and still functions after being flexed more than 4,000 times.
The switch's performance bears a strong resemblance to that of a memristor, a resistor that changes its resistance depending on the amount of current that is sent through it and retains this resistance even after the power is turned off.
Scientists at HP Labs announced they had created a memristor last year; the NIST component demonstrates similar electrical behaviour, but is also flexible.
Now that the team has successfully fabricated a memristor, NIST can begin to explore the metrology that may be necessary to study the device's electrical behaviour.
'Because the active component of our device can be fabricated from a liquid, there is the potential that in the future we can print the entire memory device as simply and inexpensively as we now print a slide on an overhead transparency,' said NIST researcher Nadine Gergel-Hackett.
Readers interested in learning more can view a short video on Youtube here.