Transparent, flexible 3D memory chips may be the next big thing in small memory devices

March 28, 2012

A flexible, transparent memory chip created by researchers at Rice University (credit: Tour Lab/Rice University)

New memory chips that are transparent, flexible enough to be folded like a sheet of paper, shrug off 1,000-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, and survive radiation could usher in the development of next-generation flash-competitive memory says Dr. James M. Tour, Professor of Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, and Materials Science at Rice University.

He said devices with these chips could retain data despite an accidental trip through the drier — or even a voyage to Mars. And with a unique 3-D internal architecture, the new chips could pack extra gigabytes of data while taking up less space for tomorrow’s keychain drives, cell phones, and computers.

“These new chips are really big for the electronics industry because they are now looking for replacements for flash memory,” said Tour. “In order to put more memory into a smaller area, you have to stack components beyond two dimensions, which is what is currently available,” he said. “You have to go to 3D.”

Researchers at Rice University found that the amazing memory capability of the chips was due to metallic silicon nanofilaments. The transparency and small size of the new chips enables them to be used in a wide range of potential applications. For example, current touch screens are made of indium tin oxide and glass, both of which are brittle and can break easily. However, glass or plastic containing the memory chips could replace those screens with the added bonuses of being flexible while also storing large amounts of memory.

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