IBM’s flash new memory

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Scientists from IBM, Macronix and Qimonda have unveiled a prototype non-volatile computer memory with the potential to replace flash memory chips.

Flash memory is a type of non-volatile memory widely used in computers, digital cameras, portable music players and other consumer electronics.

The researchers used the concept of ‘phase-change’ memory, which appears to be much faster and can be made much smaller than flash. The prototype phase-change memory device operated more than 500 times faster than flash while using less than half the power to write data into a cell.

The device's cross-section is only 3 by 20 nanometres, far smaller than flash can currently be built and equivalent to the industry's chip-making capabilities targeted for 2015.

‘These results dramatically demonstrate that phase-change memory has a very bright future,’ said Dr. T. C. Chen, Vice President, Science & Technology, IBM Research. ‘Many expect flash memory to encounter significant scaling limitations in the near future. Today we unveil a new phase-change memory material that has high performance even in an extremely small volume. This should ultimately lead to phase-change memories that will be very attractive for many applications.’