Wednesday, April 24, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 136



UH technology may revolutionize computer memory

Cougar News Staff

Do you love legally sharing home movies with friends via your computer, but fear the large download time such endeavors entail?

Fear not, for UH researchers have developed and patented a new high-speed, high-capacity computer memory technology that may allow
personal computer users to transfer large files, such as digital movies, in a few seconds or less as well as making rebooting one's computer
a thing of the past.

"With current computers, if you turn the power off and then turn it back on, you lose whatever you haven't saved, and you have to reboot, or restart,
your system from the beginning," said Alex Ignatiev, director of UH's Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials. 

Ignatiev and his UH colleagues Shangquing Liu and Naijuan Wu are the developers of the new technology.

"Our type of memory is nonvolatile, which means if you turn the power off, everything is still there. You turn your computer back on and it's right
where you left it," Ignatiev said.

The Sharp Corporation has exclusively licensed the technology, UH researchers announced. They are working with Sharp Laboratories of
America in Camas, Wash., to develop commercial applications for it.

The researchers have fabricated and tested individual thin-film memory elements, made of a material called perovskite, which can be
programmed to be more or less resistive to the passage of electricity. A commercial memory product using this material would result in a
resistive memory chip compatible with modern personal computers, Ignatiev said.

This new technology could be the next generation in mainstream computer memory, said Victor Hsu, director of the integrated circuits process
technology laboratory at Sharp Laboratories of America.

"Once integrated into a computer, this type of memory could be ideal for multimedia and broadband applications, allowing PC users to
download information from the Internet at very high speeds and allowing much faster processing of high-volume information such as video and
graphics," Hsu said.

The new technology has other potential benefits, as well: "We believe once it is fully developed into a commercial chip it will be less expensive
than current memory technology," Hsu said.

Current personal computers have two kinds of memory random access memory, or RAM, and mass memory storage. RAM is the active
memory that allows users to run programs and process data; it does not save information if electrical power is lost. Mass memory storage,
such as a computer's hard drive, permanently stores data but works slowly.

The new resistive RAM technology may someday replace both kinds of memory, Ignatiev said. 

"This resistive memory is a constant, permanent memory, but it's fluid as well, capable of rapidly storing information of any kind in a nonvolatile
way," he said. "And it's all electronic, with no mechanical parts such as those used in hard drives to read and store data."

Ignatiev presented information about the technology at the Second International Nonvolatile Memory Conference in San Diego in November

Initially, the research at UH was funded by NASA and the State of Texas through the Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials.
It is now supported by Sharp Laboratories of America.

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