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posted by martyb on Monday January 10, @11:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the computers-without-Alzheimers-department dept.

Mass production of revolutionary computer memory moves closer with ULTRARAM™ on silicon wafers for the first time

ULTRARAM™ is a novel type of memory with extraordinary properties. It combines the non-volatility of a data storage memory, like flash, with the speed, energy-efficiency and endurance of a working memory, like DRAM. To do this it utilises the unique properties of compound semiconductors, commonly used in photonic devices such as LEDS, laser diodes and infrared detectors, but not in digital electronics, which is the preserve of silicon.

[...] Now, in a collaboration between the Physics and Engineering Departments at Lancaster University and the Department of Physics at Warwick, ULTRARAM™ has been implemented on silicon wafers for the very first time.

Professor Manus Hayne of the Department of Physics at Lancaster, who leads the work said, "ULTRARAM™ on silicon is a huge advance for our research, overcoming very significant materials challenges of large crystalline lattice mismatch, the change from elemental to compound semiconductor and differences in thermal contraction."

[...] Remarkably, the ULTRARAM™ on silicon devices actually outperform previous incarnations of the technology on GaAs compound semiconductor wafers, demonstrating (extrapolated) data storage times of at least 1000 years, fast switching speed (for device size) and program-erase cycling endurance of at least 10 million, which is one hundred to one thousand times better than flash.

So... are we approaching the point where we get a plug-in RAM storage module that can be used like nonvolatile RAM -- because it is nonvolatile? And when you've built complex data structures on it with RAM efficiency, you can unplug it and put it, and of course the data, on a shelf for later use?

Or just plug it into a computer when you need an extra 24 gigabytes of RAM to formally verify a category-theoretical theorem?

How would *you* like to use this?

Journal Reference:
Peter D. Hodgson, Dominic Lane, Peter J. Carrington, et al. ULTRARAM: A Low‐Energy, High‐Endurance, Compound‐Semiconductor Memory on Silicon [open], Advanced Electronic Materials (DOI: 10.1002/aelm.202101103)


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  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday January 12, @01:05PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 12, @01:05PM (#1212085)

    The user experience has been around a long time. Historically the tech was either disposable or slow but that wouldn't change the experience and procedures of use.

    In the old days you could buy a sram with a lithium backup battery that would sometimes last as long as five years or so. Somewhat more recently you can buy "fram" chips that are like very small slow core memory.

    The main problems I recall from trying to mess with this stuff revolve around ROCK solid power supply supervisor chip type problems and crash recovery and failure modes.

    With a 50 MHz clock and a 32 bit address space, if the CPU goes "nuts" as the power shuts off normally no one cares, but with nvram the address bus can cycle thru the entire space sooner or later. Worse with older tech, imagine a 2 mhz z80 and 16 bit address space, that thing can wipe thru its entire address space 30 times per second as power is lost. So all you need is write enable active and the data bus full of noise as the CPU address bus tries to fetch every address in sequence to "execute" it as it powers down and the memory is wiped.

    Also see crash recovery, nvram means the nvram is always consistent so write your code assuming it'll always be consistent, but its really more like in practice that memory access is like reading a disk that needs to be fsck'd.

    As for failure modes I vaguely recall a shortwave radio an Icom R-71 or something like that where the CPU went bonkers when the backup battery lost its mind. Was recoverable but was a pain. I would imagine most of those radios hit the trash pile the instant the battery died. "If you can write it you can read it" well not really and not all the time. I assume the marketing claims this device will last forever, just like flash lasts forever and my cellphone battery lasts for a week between charges. IRL when the chip fails the software will have to tolerate it. Or not tolerate it, to drive more sales, greenwashing style "think of all the little watch batteries we saved the planet from, too bad you have to buy an entire new car every five years because the engine computer will self destruct when the battery fails" I'm sure failure will continue to be marketed as greenwashing.

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