Twisty memory from NIST

This flash memory from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is completely flexible and can fit under human tissue or against organs and that can scan and report back on your health status. The best part? They did a little video with dancing people in it.

The memory can also act as a “memristor,” leading to possible implementations in artificial intelligence and ultra-small devices. Seriously weird stuff.

Though some flexible components exist, creating flexible memory has been a technical barrier, according to NIST researchers.

Hunting for a solution, the researchers took polymer sheets—the sort that transparencies for overhead projectors are made from—and experimented with depositing a thin film of titanium dioxide, an ingredient in sunscreen, on their surfaces. Instead of using expensive equipment to deposit the titanium dioxide as is traditionally done, the material was deposited by a sol gel process, which consists of spinning the material in liquid form and letting it set, like making gelatin. By adding electrical contacts, the team created a flexible memory switch that operates on less than 10 volts, maintains its memory when power is lost, and still functions after being flexed more than 4,000 times.

What’s more, the switch’s performance bears a strong resemblance to that of a memristor, a component theorized in 1971 as a fourth fundamental circuit element (along with the capacitor, resistor and inductor). A memristor is, in essence, a resistor that changes its resistance depending on the amount of current that is sent through it—and retains this resistance even after the power is turned off. Industrial scientists announced they had created a memristor last year, and the NIST component demonstrates similar electrical behavior, but is also flexible. Now that the team has successfully fabricated a memristor, NIST can begin to explore the metrology that may be necessary to study the device’s unique electrical behavior.