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Boffins come up with universal memory

by on25 January 2011

Speed of DRAM with the density of Flash
Boffins at Carolina State University have come up with a "universal" memory technology that combines the speed of DRAM with the non-volatility and density of flash.

Professor Paul Franzon told EE Times that the new memory technology should enable computers to power down memories not currently being accessed, drastically cutting the energy consumed by computers of all types, from mobile and desktop computers to server farms and data centers.

The technology uses a double floating-gate field-effect-transistor (FET) is as fast as DRAM and will need to be refreshed as often. However the densities will be about the same as flash.

The double floating-gates use direct tunneling when storing charge to represent bits. This means that the whole lot is done at lower voltages.

The first floating-gate requires refreshing about as often as DRAM. But if the boffins turn up the voltage its data value can be transferred to the second floating-gate, which acts more like a traditional flash memory, offering long-term nonvolatile storage.

The upshot is that a computer can operate normally until they become idle. Then their data values are transferred to the second gate in order to power down the memory chip.  When the computer needs the stored values, the second gate quickly transfers their stored charge back to the first gate and normal operations can resume.

Franzon said that the method will  enable power-proportional computing, by allowing memory to be turned off during periods of low use.

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