Last summer HEXUS reported upon researchers working on a Universal Memory device, touted as a DRAM/SSD replacement. The exciting sounding project could deliver a solution to "the digital technology energy crisis," and was claimed to combine the attractions of both DRAM and flash memory - without compromise. These were lofty claims and a number of readers were understandably cynical.
At the time of writing, back in June 2019, I promised an update on the big claims made by the University of Lancaster researchers. Happily, I can report that the project seems to have been going full steam ahead and refinements made. The project now has a name for the new type of memory: UK III-V memory.
The researchers suggest that it is desirable that the next generation of RAM will be non-volatile (NVRAM) and its UK III-V memory has this property, in addition to the following highlights:
- 100 times lower switching energy per unit area than DRAM (10-17J at 20nm)
- Similar operating speeds to DRAM (5ns write time)
- Flash-like readout simplicity
- Non volatility achieved thanks to materials with large energy barrier (2.1 eV)
- Non volatility duration is "extraordinarily long"
- Low voltage operation
At the time of writing the researchers are pretty certain that write and erase operations will be ultra-low-power but the jury is still out on read power. However, Professor Manus Hayne, who is leading the research, told Electronics Weekly that UK III-V Memory will not need the reconstructive write that is necessary after reading a '1' from DRAM. Nor will it need DRAM's periodic refresh.
Prototype UK III-V Memory transistor
UK III-V Memory cells are said to be very similar in structure to flash. They use a floating gate to store the memory state but, instead of using oxide isolation, indium arsenide and aluminium antimonide materials provide 'near perfect' isolation between the floating gate and the control gate. Understandably, a patent has been applied for the recent advances.
It is encouraging that the Universal Memory device has been refined to create the UK III-V Memory in a few months. The work was published at the start of 2020 on the IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices ( Early Access ) site.