DFG-FET Tech Promises to Replace RAM, Flash

January 25, 2011 // 12:40 p.m.

Tags: #dfg-fet #dram #memristor #nand-flash #universal-memory #university-of-north-carolina

A new technology aims to do away with the distinction between volatile and non-volatile RAM, creating components that can flip between modes on demand.

The components, called dual-floating gate field effect transistors or DFG-FETs, are described over on DailyTech as having the ability to 'revolutionise the field of electronics.' If the technology lives up to its promise, then future computers could be significantly more impressive.

Developed by scientists from the North Carolina State University, who have published their work in the Journal of the IEEE Computer Society, the DFG-FET technology promises to create a form of 'universal memory,' offering both volatile and non-volatile storage in a single device.

Current memory takes two different forms. The first is volatile storage, such as RAM, which is fast, but any stored disappears when the component loses power. The other is non-volatile storage, such as NAND flash, which is slower, but the data remains intact throughout multiple boot cycles.

The DFG-FET technology promises to replace both types of storage with a single, dual-use format that can switch between modes on demand. As well as potentially reducing the number of components required for an average computing system, the team believes it has serious implications for low-power and instant-on computing.

By changing fast volatile storage into non-volatile storage, a system fitted with 'universal memory' can quickly go into a sleep state, drawing no power. This system can then be woken instantaneously, changing the memory back into its volatile mode for operation.

By offering the option to quickly switch to non-volatile storage, such a system would also be more resilient to power cuts. A small battery backup would suffice for the change to take place, saving the contents of the memory until power can be restored and the system can instantly recover to its previous state.

Sadly, the team has not revealed how close the DFG-FET technology is to commercialisation. While the technology is certainly promising, it also potentially faces competition in the form of HP's 'memristor' - memory-resistor - technology, which is already being commercialised thanks to an agreement with memory specialist Hynix.

Do you think that DFG-FET could be the future of memory, or are you betting on HP's memristor? Share your thoughts over in the forums.