Yale-IBM collaboration mitigates memory storage problem
A joint collaboration between @Yale and @IBM is investigating how novel computer memory devices may offer optimal information storage. The team, which published its findings in the journal Advanced Materials on Jan. 12, focused on phase-change memory transistors, a class of devices that stores information differently than the Flash transistors typical to common electronic devices. The team’s research focuses on optimizing transistor function. While Flash transistors depend on floating electron gates to encode binary information, a phase-change memory transistor employs a crystalline structure. By using a crystal whose structure changes significantly when heated, researchers can create transistors able to store information even more effectively than traditional Flash transistors. “It’s faster and consumes less power,” said first author Terry Xie GRD ’20, a member of professor Judy Cha’s lab. Because crystals can have varying levels of resistance, a single phase-change memory transistor could potentially store more states than just one and zero, which would improve storage capacities significantly, he noted. Cha, the paper’s corresponding author, said that most computers rely on two types of data storage: fast-acting but volatile memory and slow but secure storage. Because computing is becoming more data-intensive, though, the high price of upgrading memory presents a barrier to improving computing power, she added. Transistors using phase-change memory, or PCM, are attractive candidates for those hoping to create a third tier of computer-data retention beyond memory and storage, called storage-class memory, she said.