Phase Change Memory Gets A Little More Flexible
Lowering The Voltage And Manufacturing Temperature
Lowering the bar has become a good thing in electronics, as companies work to develop more power efficient products as well as modifying their manufacturing processes to have less of an environmental impact. This holds true for products still in development such as phase change memory, which has had some interesting developments recently thanks to a team from Stanford lead by Professor Eric Pop.
PCM is a type of memory which might one day show up as a reliable product, increasing performance, density and longevity once the design hurdles have been overcome. We did briefly see a product which used PCM in Intel’s 3D XPoint but the price and low supply doomed it to the pile of tech which could have been, somewhat above the layer of BETA cassettes. Since then we have seen some improvements in the manufacturing processes and the power requirements needed to change the phase of the material which comprises the storage medium.
A team from Stanford led by Professor Eric Pop have developed PCM which requires a current density of merely 0.1 MA/cm2, two orders of magnitude lower than previously achieved by other PCM. This could make it usable in low powered kit, such as IoT devices if the cost can be lowered to a more attractive level. Their research has also led to another big step towards making PCM a viable product, the production of their antimony telluride and germanium telluride based PCM can be done at temperatures under 200C.
That reduces the costs associated with manufacturing as well as the environmental impact of manufacturing and has another benefit you might not have thought of. The temperatures allow the memory to be laid out on a flexible substrate to not only make it usable in a large variety of applications but also to be better insulated so that the heat used to change the phase of the memory does not bleed out to other components as easily.
Check out the PCM tag at the top for more general details on phase change memory and head to Physics World for details on this specific development project.
The new PCM’s low power use makes it especially attractive for applications related to the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices, both of which often rely on batteries or energy-harvesting systems.