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Faster memory could accelerate computing

Experimental microchip improves reliability and speed of writing and reading data

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11:22am, June 11, 2013

An advance in a speedy type of microchip could help engineers integrate computers’ short-term and long-term memory.

For all the recent advances in the speed of computers, their command centers remain relatively inefficient. A central processor does all the thinking and quickly stores a bunch of 1s and 0s on a chip called dynamic random access memory, or DRAM. But DRAM only works when the computer is on, so it can serve only as short-term memory. Data needed for the long haul has to be stored on separate magnetic disk drives or on flash drives such as a camera’s memory card.

For decades, researchers have vied to create universal memory: a chip that combines the speed and reliability of DRAM with the archival abilities of flash. The advance, published June 11 in Nature Communications, fixes a weakness of a leading universal memory contender called ferroelectric RAM.

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