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Ion-based data allows atom-sized storage cells that simulate brain structure

Mon 12 Oct 2015

Researchers have found a new method of storing information that uses ions to save data and electrons to read data, heralding a possible move from charge-based storage to a model based on resistance – and with it a potentially game-changing miniaturisation of current data storage models.

The work has been carried out by scientists from Kiel University and the Ruhr Universitat Bochum and amongst its findings yields the notion of reducing a storage cell in size to almost the dimensions of an atom.

Conventional memory technologies involve the displacement of electrons by applying voltage, but this configuration of  is almost at its limits in terms of  future development, with multiple arrays increasingly standing in for faster or more efficient single units. Industry and academia are therefore currently casting around for a universal data retention solution that retains the advantages of storage devices whilst ensuring that as little data is moved back and forth as possible.

The Kiel and Ruhr researchers have looked to a storage type that’s based on electrical resistance, and have developed a component that runs along these lines. The component comprises two metallic electrodes that are separated by a “so-called solid ion conductor”. On application of voltage, the resistance of the storage cell changes -the end game (and gain) of this is that the cells built in this fashion are not only easy to produce but can be reduced to practically the size of an atom.

“Moving data between individual storage devices has now begun to take a not inconsiderable amount of time.” says Professor Hermann Kohlstedt, Head of the Nanoelectronic group at Kiel University. “Put simply: more is moved backwards and forwards than is calculated.”

Additionally, by constructing an ion conductor researchers have allowed ions to be used for storage and electrons to be used for reading data. The ions are moved in a storage cell at voltages above one volt whilst electrons are moved in the cell at voltages far below one volt.

The research has also discovered that these new storage devices can simulate brain structures. ‘Revolutionary computer architectures’ can potentially be accomplished by rapid pattern recognition and the low energy consumption associated with large parallel data processing.


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