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Penn researchers' study of phase change materials could lead to better computer memory
Date:6/21/2012

PHILADELPHIA -- Memory devices for computers require a large collection of components that can switch between two states, which represent the 1's and 0's of binary language. Engineers hope to make next-generation chips with materials that distinguish between these states by physically rearranging their atoms into different phases. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have now provided new insight into how this phase change happens, which could help engineers make memory storage devices faster and more efficient.

The research was conducted by Ritesh Agarwal, associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science, along with members of his research group. A.T. Charlie Johnson, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences, and Ju Li, now a professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also contributed to the study.

Their research was published in the journal Science.

"For many years there has been a push to find memory storage that is at once scalable, non-volatile and fast," Agarwal said. "Phase change materials could meet all of those criteria, but the problem is that we don't know much about how these materials actually work."

Some kinds of memory, like a computer's RAM, can switch between states very quickly, allowing for the computation necessary to run programs. But this kind of memory is "volatile" in that it needs a constant supply of power to maintain its states. Other kinds of memory, like the kind found on a flash drive, is non-volatile in that it retains its data even after the power is turned off. This kind of memory, however, has low switching speeds. Researchers have long attempted to find a "universal memory" which combines both non-volatility and high switching speeds, along with scalability, the ability to store large amounts of dat
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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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