The next generation of memory technology was unveiled last week whenty scientists set to launch memory update. a team of Cambridge scientists introduced a chip capable of storing gigabytes of data.
PLed Memory - Phase-state Low Electron(hole)-number Drive - was developed at a Hitachi-backed facility of Cambridge University and could spell the end of the traditional hard drive. The chip is the size of a normal transistor but can store the sounds and images from a complete movie. It could also been developed to retain memory, even when the power is switched off, effectively replacing hard disks.
The development comes at a time when current memory technology is approaching its limits. Increases in memory size and speed have not kept pace with processors. The same could also be said about hard drives, - their moving parts have limited the speed of development.
DRam technology has one transistor and one capacitor cell, whereas PLed memory has an extra transistor, called a gain cell. This allows it to provide a large signal from a low power source and also permits a read/write time of less than 10 nanoseconds - far quicker than current hard drives.
The chip is set to become the first commercial project to emerge from the research and development centre, but will not become publicly available until at least 2004.
Meanwhile, the semiconductor industry has suffered another setback despite showing earlier signs of recovery. Prices of DRam chips have fallen more than 40 per cent since February and the market is once again flooded with chips.
The price fall has been blamed on a traditionally slow second quarter, combined with a significant and premature increase in production from Korean semiconductor companies when DRam prices started to recover last year.
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