Carbon sheets may power next generation of flash storage


Miniaturization is one of the driving forces in the tech world, not just in the size of your media player or whatnot, but in the size of the nano-scale components that make it up. Processors, for example, are approaching the barrier of quantum effects on their transistor units, and are having to work around it. Similarly, flash memory makers are going to be hitting a wall a few years down the line and are looking for the tech that will take them over it. Graphene may be the answer they’re searching for — or not.

As solid state memory technology advances, it gets smaller and smaller. IBM and AMD recently created a 22nm SRAM cell, though Intel pooh-poohed the achievement. The next generation will prove even more difficult, as the physical limitations of the material (silicon) will make arrays of the current design ineffective. So either they have to find a way to work around the problem with silicon (via multi-level cell arrays, for instance), introduce a new material like graphene, or try something completely different.

Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon, which exhibits properties favorable to SSD engineers: when used to store a charge, it leaks little voltage, produces little heat, and works in a large range of temperatures, unlike my laptop (the battery got so cold that it thinks it isn’t there). It also will work down to a much smaller cell size — 10nm — which means more density and more storage space.

Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just switching out the materials; years of research will have to be done, but it’s one of those things that you’d better start on early or when the time comes, you’ll have beeen outflanked by more forward-thinking research teams.