Writing in a paper recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from Lancaster University in the U.K. describe a newly developed – and already patented – type of electronic memory device which could transform daily lives through ultra-low energy consumption.
A result of decades-long quest to figure out a way to engineer ‘Universal Memory’, the device would slash peak power consumption in data centres by a fifth and enable such technological marvels as computers which do not need to boot up and can go into ‘sleep’ mode as frequently as between each keystroke.
“Universal Memory, which has robustly stored data that is easily changed, is widely considered to be unfeasible, or even impossible, but this device demonstrates its contradictory properties,” said corresponding author Professor Manus Hayne from Lancaster University.
Given the prediction that by 2025 the world is going to be effectively ‘drowning’ in data, estimated to consume approximately 20% of electricity globally, the invention of a new type of memory with much lower power needs is a true godsend.
In the paper, the authors describe how they have successfully combined the low-energy writing and erasing of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) and the stability of flash memory, which they’ve been able to accomplish by employing quantum mechanics.
“The contradictory requirements of non-volatility and low-voltage switching, are achieved by exploiting the quantum-mechanical properties of an asymmetric triple resonant-tunnelling barrier,” wrote the authors in their paper.
This means that the ‘Universal Memory’ developed by Hayne and his team is not only light on energy consumption, but also tremendously stable: “Our device has an intrinsic data storage time that is predicted to exceed the age of the Universe, yet it can record or delete data using 100 times less energy than DRAM,” Hayne said.
Provided that further testing, deployment logistics, and patenting – which is already underway with one patent granted and another pending – turn out well, the device could replace the $100bn market for DRAM within decades.