Low-power memory from nanotubes

March 14, 2011 | Source: Technology Review

Three low-power phase-change memory bits positioned between carbon-nanotube electrodes (colorized). The middle bit is “off” and the other two are “on.” The bits are arrayed on a silicon dioxide substrate that has been colored light blue. (Photo credit: Feng Xiong and Alex Jerez)

A new type of nonvolatile memory based on carbon nanotubes has been developed by Eric Pop and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The devices use narrow, highly conductive carbon nanotubes as the electrical contacts, ranging from one to five nanometers in diameter. They connect to pieces of phase-change material that are miniaturized are about 10 nanometers in size, reducing power consumption.

A rival to flash memory that requires one percent as much power could improve battery life in mobile devices.

Pop’s group reports writing to their phase-change memory using 100th as much current, writing and rewriting each bit hundreds of times with arrays of about 100 bits. Pop says the next step is to demonstrate millions of read-write cycles and larger arrays.