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Researchers produce first room-temperature SiO ReRAM

Researchers produce first room-temperature SiO ReRAM

UCL's prototype ReRAM modules are constructed from common silicon oxide, and operate at room temperatures.

Researchers at University College London have released details of what is claimed to be the world's first silicon oxide-based resistive RAM (ReRAM) chip capable of operating at ambient temperatures.

ReRAM is one of the technologies researchers are developing with a view to replacing traditional NAND flash for non-volatile storage systems, offering speeds far closer to that of volatile dynamic RAM (DRAM) modules.

Previous ReRAM prototypes, including a headline-grabbing example from 2008 which was based on titanium dioxide and Elpida's recently-announced module which is due for mass production in 2013, have required esoteric operating environments - including vacuums and extreme temperatures - and complex production processes which have precluded them from commercialisation.

According to the team's work, published in the Journal of Applied Physics, the solution may have been found with the first ReRAM module to be produced from common silicon oxide and to operate at ambient temperatures - heralding a potential revolution in high-speed storage systems.

'Our ReRAM memory chips need just a thousandth of the energy and are around a hundred times faster than standard flash memory chips,' boasted Tony Kenyon of his team's findings. 'The fact that the device can operate in ambient conditions and has a continuously variable resistance opens up a huge range of potential applications.'

The prototype system is capable of switching resistance significantly more efficiently than any other ReRAM prototype around, thanks to a novel silicon oxide structure whereby the arrangement of silicon atoms changes to form filaments of silicon within the solid silicon oxide. These filaments are significantly less resistive than the filament-free silicon oxide, providing the 1 to their absence's 0 required for digital storage.

The ReRAM prototype could also be used to produce memristor hardware which mimics the neurons in the brain, thanks to its ability to record a continuously variable resistance based on the last voltage that was applied.

Amusingly, the material was discovered by accident. During work on producing silicon-based light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers noted that the prototype devices appeared unstable. Adnan Mehonic, a PhD student, was asked to investigate - and found that, far from being unstable, the material the team had created flipped between conductive and non-conductive states extremely predictably.

'My work revealed that a material we had been looking at for some time could in fact be made into a memristor,' Mehonic explained at the material's unveiling. 'The potential for this material is huge. During proof of concept development we have shown we can program the chips using the cycle between two or more states of conductivity. We're very excited that our devices may be an important step towards new silicon memory chips.'

The team is keen to point out the material's potential for high-speed non-volatile memory systems, memristor applications and even for use as a central processor - but, as is often the case with academia, is somewhat silent on a potential release date for a commercialised version of the technology.

18 Comments

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[USRF]Obiwan 21st May 2012, 13:27 Quote
Amazing. Most of the great breakthroughs are found by accident. This is one of them.
bowman 21st May 2012, 14:01 Quote
Awkward. I've been reading too little tech and too much engine material to think of SOx as silicon oxide any more.

I found myself wondering what on earth sulfur oxides had to do with memory technology..
Gareth Halfacree 21st May 2012, 14:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowman
Awkward. I've been reading too little tech and too much engine material to think of SOx as silicon oxide any more. I found myself wondering what on earth sulfur oxides had to do with memory technology..
Hah! I wanted to write "silicon oxide" in full, but the headline was already pushing illegibility so settled for SOx. Trouble is, it's a major breakthrough but one which is hard to quantify in a small number of words: it's not the first ReRAM prototype, or the first silicon oxide ReRAM prototype, or the first room-temperature ReRAM prototype, but the first room-temperature silicon oxide ReRAM prototype. Bit of a mouthful, that one!
Paradigm Shifter 21st May 2012, 16:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Hah! I wanted to write "silicon oxide" in full, but the headline was already pushing illegibility so settled for SOx. Trouble is, it's a major breakthrough but one which is hard to quantify in a small number of words: it's not the first ReRAM prototype, or the first silicon oxide ReRAM prototype, or the first room-temperature ReRAM prototype, but the first room-temperature silicon oxide ReRAM prototype. Bit of a mouthful, that one!

In that case, us Si rather than S. One extra character, and it's not using the wrong element.
Phil Rhodes 21st May 2012, 17:00 Quote
SOx makes me think of sodium vapour lights.
schmidtbag 21st May 2012, 17:01 Quote
I'm glad i haven't bought an SSD yet, assuming something like this is affordable. Even if it isn't, i'm sure it'll drop the prices of SSD once that is no longer the fastest form of permanent storage.

What I'd personally like to see is a SATA3 RAM drive, or better yet, a way to bridge 2 computers via SATA, where the 2nd computer is a RAM drive itself. If something like this were possible, it'd be even better if you could do something like RAID 0 with 4 ports, offering unbeatable speeds.
Alecto 21st May 2012, 18:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
I'm glad i haven't bought an SSD yet, assuming something like this is affordable. Even if it isn't, i'm sure it'll drop the prices of SSD once that is no longer the fastest form of permanent storage.

Indeed it will ! And going by other technologies (LCD, LED, OLED, graphene etc.) it's only going to take what, 10+ years before it sees the light of day as a practical consumer item ?
SpAceman 22nd May 2012, 01:33 Quote
It would be more appropriate to change all instances of SOx to SiOx with the x subscripted if possible. This would more accurately describe the silicon-rich silica used in this application.
mclean007 22nd May 2012, 06:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
SOx makes me think of sodium vapour lights.
Why? Sodium is Na.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpAceman
It would be more appropriate to change all instances of SOx to SiOx with the x subscripted if possible. This would more accurately describe the silicon-rich silica used in this application.
Yup, or SiO2 or even just SiO would be less confusing than SOx.
fluxtatic 22nd May 2012, 07:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
I'm glad i haven't bought an SSD yet, assuming something like this is affordable. Even if it isn't, i'm sure it'll drop the prices of SSD once that is no longer the fastest form of permanent storage.

What I'd personally like to see is a SATA3 RAM drive, or better yet, a way to bridge 2 computers via SATA, where the 2nd computer is a RAM drive itself. If something like this were possible, it'd be even better if you could do something like RAID 0 with 4 ports, offering unbeatable speeds.

To the first, I like that idea...I like it a lot. If I wasn't completely broke, I would have maxed out the RAM in my system and handed most of it off to a RAM disk that initializes on boot. As long as you remember to sync your RAM disk back to permanent storage before you shut down, life is good.

To the second, though, huh? What are you on about with that?
e1ixer 22nd May 2012, 08:10 Quote
I love how my favourite tech news site is covering my research group's work, makes it way cooler than the BBC covering it. Please can someone remove the erroneous "SOx" in the title. A Facebook quote from Adnan himself:

" Adnan Mehonic What is SOx? Sulfur oxide :D lol "

Many here have already commented correctly that it's wrong so let's sort this out.
Gareth Halfacree 22nd May 2012, 08:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by e1ixer
I love how my favourite tech news site is covering my research group's work, makes it way cooler than the BBC covering it. Please can someone remove the erroneous "SOx" in the title. A Facebook quote from Adnan himself:

" Adnan Mehonic What is SOx? Sulfur oxide :D lol "

Many here have already commented correctly that it's wrong so let's sort this out.
Headline's already changed (to SiO,) but there's not much I can do about this 'ere forum thread.
yougotkicked 22nd May 2012, 09:29 Quote
@ schmidtbag: not exactly what your thinking, but a lot faster. check out OCZ's RevoDrives, that's DDR3 modules connnecting over a PCI-E bus. expensive as hell though.

glad to see this, flash memory needs a breakthrough pretty bad right now IMO. commercialization is hard to do when the previous generation is literally 100 times cheaper.
schmidtbag 22nd May 2012, 18:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
I'm glad i haven't bought an SSD yet, assuming something like this is affordable. Even if it isn't, i'm sure it'll drop the prices of SSD once that is no longer the fastest form of permanent storage.

What I'd personally like to see is a SATA3 RAM drive, or better yet, a way to bridge 2 computers via SATA, where the 2nd computer is a RAM drive itself. If something like this were possible, it'd be even better if you could do something like RAID 0 with 4 ports, offering unbeatable speeds.

To the first, I like that idea...I like it a lot. If I wasn't completely broke, I would have maxed out the RAM in my system and handed most of it off to a RAM disk that initializes on boot. As long as you remember to sync your RAM disk back to permanent storage before you shut down, life is good.

To the second, though, huh? What are you on about with that?

Well first of all, I was thinking that possibly a laptop system would be used as the RAM drive, so that way its more likely to be low-power and would have a battery to help protect it from losing data. Being a linux user, it would be easy for me to write a script to automatically sync the data to a permanent form of storage - I already wrote a script that generates RAM drives.

SATA is currently the fastest and cheapest form of data transfer that nearly every computer supports. If it were somehow possible to make a computer treat its SATA ports as a drive, the ports could be re-routed to the RAM drive (again, this is something Linux would likely be able to do), which could either allow multiple computers to connect to it at a time, or do RAID so you get unparalleled performance. If I knew how to treat a SATA port as a drive, I could probably take care of the rest myself. Or, if there was some sort of bridge that lets you "network" 2 computers via SATA. Ethernet isn't an option because its far too slow in comparison, I have yet to see any way to connect 2 computers via USB 3 (besides, even though that has a higher bandwidth, that doesn't mean its faster than SATA), and Thunderbolt isn't popular enough.
vodkas666 23rd May 2012, 09:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF]Obiwan
Amazing. Most of the great breakthroughs are found by accident. This is one of them.
I wouldn't say it was discovered by accident as they where looking at Si LED's, something that is know to be too awkward to work and still wouldn't be as cheap as what is available. They should be glad that they found something.
Quote:
Originally Posted by yougotkicked
commercialization is hard to do when the previous generation is literally 100 times cheaper.
Commercialization of anything Si based us quite easy as it is normally quite cheap and easy to produce in a large quantity compared to most solid state materials. In theory they should be as cheap, if not cheaper, than current technology once developed if enough interested parties can be found.

I hope that when my co-authored paper on the development of an optical receiver that could make fibre-optic networks more viable that I could get this level of coverage, although I highly doubt anyone would pick it up >:(
Gareth Halfacree 23rd May 2012, 11:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by vodkas666
I hope that when my co-authored paper on the development of an optical receiver that could make fibre-optic networks more viable that I could get this level of coverage, although I highly doubt anyone would pick it up >:(
If it holds the promise of revolutionising the way optical networking works (many times faster, many times cheaper, many times longer-range - whatever) then I wouldn't be surprised. Email me an abstract - it sounds interesting.
vodkas666 24th May 2012, 08:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
If it holds the promise of revolutionising the way optical networking works (many times faster, many times cheaper, many times longer-range - whatever) then I wouldn't be surprised. Email me an abstract - it sounds interesting.

At the minute there is a problem with some of the characterizing of the material (the electron tunneling isn't what we thought it was) and we're waiting on someone else outside the department to do some modelling for it. As I'm the lesser of the partners being a 4th Year undergrad and co-working on it with a PhD student and supervisor I'll get there permissions first but once everything is in place I'll get back to you.

It will allow for signal splitting without a huge consequence on the strength and our devices are being grown on a cheaper substrate now due to new growing techniques. They should also quite easily be quicker than the currently used material.

P.S. It could be a few months as the PhD guy is really slow and I'm about to graduate.
Phil Rhodes 24th May 2012, 09:45 Quote
About sodium vapour lights:
Quote:
Why? Sodium is Na.

Yes, but they're still colloquially referred to as "SOX" and "SON" type lamps. God knows why.
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