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World's first two-terminal silicon-only memory chip created

Posted: 22 Sep 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:silicon? memory chip? Moore's Law?

A discovery by scientists at Rice University is poised to again prove Moore's Law correct. A research team led by Professor James Tour, Douglas Natelson and Lin Zhong managed to create the world's first two-terminal memory chip that uses just silicona development that could lead to higher-capacity memory chips.

The new technology uses a layer of silicon oxide inserted between two electrodes consisting of semiconducting sheets of polycrystalline silicon. Graduate student Jun Yao, a member of Tour's laboratory and primary author of the research team's paper published in Nano Letters, said applying a charge to the electrodes created a conductive pathway by stripping oxygen atoms from the silicon oxide and forming a chain of nano-sized silicon crystals. The chain can be repeatedly broken and reconnected by varying the voltage. The nanocrystal wires the team created are just 5nm wide.

Tour, Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry and a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science, said the simplicity of silicon oxide switches allows them to be highly scalable and compatible with conventional transistor manufacturing technology. They also feature a vastly increased memory density, a low operational voltage of only three volts, high on-off ratios, excellent endurance and fast switching of below 100ns. They can also withstand radiation and temperatures of up to 200C.

The use of just two terminals instead of the three used in flash memory also make them ideal for 3D arrays, which Tour said is the future of the memory industry.

"Manufacturers feel they can get pathways down to 10nm. Flash memory is going to hit a brick wall at about 20nm. But how do we get beyond that? Well, our technique is perfectly suited for sub-10nm circuits," he said.

The Tour lab and Austin tech design company PrivaTran are collaborating on a silicon-oxide chip with 1,000 memory elements.

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