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Computer Memory Can Be Read With a Flash of Light

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the whose-bright-idea-was-this dept.

Hardware 69

ananyo writes "A new kind of computer memory can be read 10,000 times faster than flash memory using pulses of light, taking advantage of principles used in solar panel design. Researchers built the prototype device using bismuth ferrite. In conventional computer memory, information is stored in cells that hold different amounts of electric charge, each representing a binary '1' or '0.' Bismuth ferrite, by contrast, and can represent those binary digits, or bits, as one of two polarization states, and, because of its photovoltaic properties, can switch between these states in response to visible light."

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69 comments

The NSA! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987435)

Is reading my computer memory with their flashlights.

Re:The NSA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987487)

They already redacted something from TFS.

Re:The NSA! (2)

The_PHP_Jedi (1320371) | about a year ago | (#43987615)

So I wasn't the only one who read the headline as "read with a flashlight." :)

Re:The NSA! (5, Funny)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#43987691)

Depending on the data, some computer memory is read with a Fleshlight.

Re:The NSA! (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43993351)

Brilliant no we just need a BUS thats 10,000 times faster

Re:The NSA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43996765)

With fucktarded omega males like you it would be more like with the fleshlight you purchased to jack off to a photo of Richard Stallman.

GO AHEAD FUKING FLAME AWAY OR
WASTE YOUR GODDAMNED MODPOINTS
FUCKTARDED SHITDOT SHEEPLE!!!!!

Call it "Photonic Memory". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987445)

I'll buy it just because it sounds cool.

Re:Call it "Photonic Memory". (4, Funny)

Arkh89 (2870391) | about a year ago | (#43988461)

In any case : don't call it Flash Memory... that would be dumb...

first comment! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987461)

I have no comment!

Re:first comment! (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#43988195)

Sir, we have another dissident here. He replied with 'no comment' when he was supposed to toe the party line.

Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987493)

SRAM, DRAM

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (3, Informative)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43987609)

No. SRAM and DRAM are not particularly faster than flash for read operations. The bigger impact on flash vs. SRAM is that SRAM is often on chip whereas flash is stuck behind a slow interface.

Flash is many times slower for erase and write operations.

It works on light flashes? what do we call it? (3, Funny)

bussdriver (620565) | about a year ago | (#43987963)

>Hey, lets use light flashes and solar tech to store memory!
Nah, we can't do that, the name Flash is already taken for memory; try another idea.

Re:It works on light flashes? what do we call it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43988541)

>Hey, lets use light flashes and solar tech to store memory!
Nah, we can't do that, the name Flash is already taken for memory; try another idea.

And AAA is taken for batteries. They should call it Savior of the Universe

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (5, Informative)

julesh (229690) | about a year ago | (#43988143)

No. SRAM and DRAM are not particularly faster than flash for read operations.

A typical flash chip has a read latency of around 50us (MLC) or 25us (SLC) and can operate one transfer per cycle at about 50-100MHz. A typical DRAM chip has a read latency of around 15ns and can operate two transfers per cycle at about 266-333MHz. A typical SRAM chip has a latency of about 10ns and can operate two transfers per cycle at similar rates to the DRAM.

Depending on the measure you use, Flash is between 7 and 3,000 times slower at reading than DRAM, and up to 5,000 times slower than SRAM.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (2, Funny)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#43988385)

You are messing the discussion with facts. Someone call the guards!

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43990519)

See my other response. Those facts are lacking factuality.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (1)

AgentSmith (69695) | about a year ago | (#43994077)

Guards!

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43989027)

ONFI NAND is a DDR interface with transfer speeds of > 300MT/s. Otherwise spot on. Do not forget that DRAM and SRAM have effectively unlimited write cycles while NAND is in the 10's of thousands.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43993019)

ONFI NAND is a DDR interface with transfer speeds of > 300MT/s. Otherwise spot on. Do not forget that DRAM and SRAM have effectively unlimited write cycles while NAND is in the 10's of thousands.

No, NAND is effectively unlimited too.
If you buy any of the regular brands they don't implement the heating necessary for this but that is not a flaw of NAND technology.

Also, DRAM and SRAM doesn't even survive a single 12V erase cycle.
Unless you get the ones that were designed for 15V-operation.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43990501)

50us? 50-100MHz? 1/50E-6 = 20KHz, not 50MHz.
http://download.micron.com/pdf/datasheets/flash/nand/2_4_8gb_nand_m49a.pdf [micron.com] -> Sequential READ: 30ns
I.E. half the speed of 15ns DRAM.

Parallel read stuff is a bit slower, but not a lot. You can pay more for faster and you can always wire it up in parallel.
http://download.micron.com/pdf/datasheets/flash/qflash/MT28F640J3.pdf [micron.com]

SRAM speed depends entirely on the context, of which there are many. The on chip ones I use take less than 1ns to read on a modern silicon process.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (1)

CatBandit (866637) | about a year ago | (#43994523)

A simple microcontroler (like Microchip's PIC16xxx) has FLASH memory and has access to it at the same speed as RAM. Running at clocks from 20 to 40MHz.

Not to mention ARM's and other similar devices who work at much more speed... smarphones maybe ?

Access to flash may be crippled by interface in the case you mention.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (5, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43988317)

...

Uhm, Flash is orders of magnitude slower than DRAM, which is orders of magnitude slower then SRAM.

SRAM is on chip because its expensive and its interface is expensive so you'd waste a lot of money and effort to have a SRAM discreet component on the other side of the mobo. Designing an interconnect to put the L1/L2 cache in an external chip is a REAL PITA by itself for consumer devices.

Looks like modern SLC NAND goes at roughly 100ns access times.

DDR3 - 2000 has a 9ns access time.

That DDR3 is roughly on par with the SRAM cache on my old 486, which was about 10ns. I have no clue what the internal L1 latency is on something like an i7, but considering that the MHZ is a couple orders a few orders of magnitude higher, I can assume its off the scale faster in comparison to NAND.

NAND is fast compared to a slow spinning platter disk that has to move a head and a platter into the right position to even get started. Its not really fast otherwise unless you do massively parallel reads. NAND has to do parallel (multiple chips) reads just to keep up with current SATA speeds. The interface isn't the issue.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43991445)

You just explained why the interface is a significant issue, then your last sentence was that the interface isn't the issue.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43991457)

> Flash is orders of magnitude slower than DRAM

You will find that the datasheets I posted elsewhere in this thread show flash at a semiconductor technology level to be 2-10 times slower than modern DRAM. That is not 'orders of magnitude'.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (2)

QQBoss (2527196) | about a year ago | (#43993685)

> Flash is orders of magnitude slower than DRAM

You will find that the datasheets I posted elsewhere in this thread show flash at a semiconductor technology level to be 2-10 times slower than modern DRAM. That is not 'orders of magnitude'.

It is for powers of 2.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (2)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#43987621)

Not knowing anything about Bismuth Ferrite' polarization states I assume that this new memory would be non-volatile.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (1)

aicrules (819392) | about a year ago | (#43987759)

As long as you keep all your lights off.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (4, Informative)

devjoe (88696) | about a year ago | (#43988009)

Actually, this is an error in the summary. The article says that it doesn't change state in response to light, but with an applied voltage. It's read with light that doesn't change the polarization state.

Re:Know what else is 10,000x faster than flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43989543)

Correct, 3 volts, low current as opposed to flash ram requiring 15 volts to change, and orders of magnitude longer to change the state.

Bismuth memory? (5, Funny)

8086 (705094) | about a year ago | (#43987529)

There's no bismuth like show bismuth

Re:Bismuth memory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987655)

I love a good pun, but that is not even relevant.

Re:Bismuth memory? (4, Funny)

aicrules (819392) | about a year ago | (#43987825)

Element jokes can be good....periodically

Re:Bismuth memory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43988701)

You are too late, all the good element jokes Argon.

Re:Bismuth memory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43989327)

Thats simply elementary, my dear AC.

Re:Bismuth memory? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#43991595)

I zinc some people just like to throw a tantalum and there's no curium.

Re:Bismuth memory? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about a year ago | (#43989659)

There's no bismuth like show bismuth

New and improved Pepto now treats cache misses!
Will be hard to work into the "Heartburn, nausea, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea!" jingle, though.

10 micrometres wide (4, Funny)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43987563)

From the article: "10 micrometres wide"

So move on. There's nothing to be seen here.

Re:10 micrometres wide (4, Insightful)

Redeye Carci (2932323) | about a year ago | (#43987657)

Yea! Transistors have never bigger then 10 micrometers.

Re:10 micrometres wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987697)

Ramesh says that there is no fundamental reason that the memory cells in his device could not be made as small as those in other memory arrays, although it will pose some practical challenges.

Re:10 micrometres wide (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987715)

Yeah, no kidding. If I could see something ten micrometers wide I'd be working for Intel.

Re:10 micrometres wide (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year ago | (#43987801)

That would be funny. A lab technician standing next to you instead of a microscope(scanning electron... whatever they use) and asking you what you see and you trying to describe it to them in words, or drawing a little picture, lol. Not trying to be mean, just a funny image to me.

Re:10 micrometres wide (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#43987931)

That would be funny. A lab technician standing next to you instead of a microscope(scanning electron... whatever they use) and asking you what you see and you trying to describe it to them in words, or drawing a little picture, lol. Not trying to be mean, just a funny image to me.

Almost... From The Far Side: It's a Mammoth [chemistry-blog.com]

Re:10 micrometres wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43988485)

Yeah, no kidding. If I could see something ten micrometers wide I'd be working for Intel.

You'd get outdated and replaced by the new young guy able to see something 10 nanometres wide.

Re:10 micrometres wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43990229)

I do work for Intel. We use scanning electron microscopes. People are optional.

Re:10 micrometres wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991999)

You know the first transistor was measured in mm.

Re:10 micrometres wide (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43992347)

Right but it was the first and only transistor at the time, so it was competitive.

However a 100Kbit, quite fast memory that is expensive because it's made on a low volume manufacturing line, without the benefit of the billions of dollars spent developing silicon based manufacturing equipment is hardly going to be competitive in the market and won't be able to generate the cash necessary to build up a manufacturing infrastructure that can compete with cheaper, higher volume memories that are a 1000 times more dense.

There is a constant stream of 'flash killing' non volatile memories that never made it in the market. This will be one of them.

It's a conspiracy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987571)

It's just a way to let the FBI and NSA read the contents of your SSD devices without turning on your machine and using nothing more than a flashlight.

So... CDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987597)

Nothing new under the Sun, huh?

Re:So... CDs? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year ago | (#43988067)

More like magnetic cores than CDs, actually.

"Bismuth Ferrite", not "Bismuth Ferret" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987703)

I totally misread that. I was speculating about antimony weasels and lead minks and such.

BUT CAN IT HEAR THE GRAPEVINE ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987751)

Can you hear the grapevine ?? Can prism hear the grapevine ?? Can we feed the grapevine garbage to have it spill out garbage ?? YES !! I heard it through the grapevine !!

Re:BUT CAN IT HEAR THE GRAPEVINE ?? (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year ago | (#43987829)

LOL You don't hear the grapevine! You hear IT THROUGH the grapevine. I.e. if there were a grapevine wall and people talking on the otherside that didn't know you were there. The grapevine itself doesn't talk, it's a freaking plant!

Re:BUT CAN IT HEAR THE GRAPEVINE ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43989883)

You two are on to something. Make that, ON something.

Re:BUT CAN IT HEAR THE GRAPEVINE ?? (1)

srobert (4099) | about a year ago | (#43990955)

...and I'm just about to loooose my mind, honey, honey yeah.

Bipolar memory? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43987837)

Do we really want bipolar memory with its constant cycling between manic and depressive states?

Comparison to PCM (5, Informative)

enriquevagu (1026480) | about a year ago | (#43987891)

The link to the actual Nature Communications paper is here: Non-volatile memory based on the ferroelectric photovoltaic effect [nature.com] .

This somehow resembles Phase-Change Memory [wikipedia.org] (PCM). PCM devices are composed of a material which, under a high current, there is a thermal fusion and changes to a different material status, from amorphous to crystalline. This changes two properties: light reflectivity (exploited in CDs and DVDs) and electrical resistance (exploited in emerging non-volatile PCM memories). The paper cites PCM and other types of emerging non-volating memories.

In this case, it is the polarization what changes, without requiring a thermal fusion, therefore increasing the endurance of the device, one of the main shortcomings of PCM. The other main shortcoming of PCM is write speed due to the slow thermal process, in the paper they claim something like 10ns. If this can be manufactured with a large scale of integration and low cost, it will probably be a revolution in computer architecture.

Re:Comparison to PCM (3)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | about a year ago | (#43988173)

Had to read through a ton of comments from the uninformed and trolls who think they're funny before finding this one informative comment. Thank you. Where are my mod points?

Re:Comparison to PCM (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#43989305)

What I find intriguing about the method is that it seems to imply that since the write and read methods are different, you could achieve asynchronous reads and writes -- which could be good or bad, depending on what's happening. Definitely a boost to some custom applications, and a possible revolution in some niche processor architectures. Not sure if it will be viable for generic computation systems.

Re:Comparison to PCM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43990341)

Err, 8T SRAM has independent write and read select and data lines, and it's been around for quite a while.

Fp di3k (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43989153)

Users With Large result of a quarrel FreEBSD continues knows that ever they are Come on is dying.Things insisted that Problem; a few

Flash! (1)

d'baba (1134261) | about a year ago | (#43989413)

...Savior Of The Universe ...

Re:Flash! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991249)

Is for everyone of us.

Bismuth = Radioactive (0)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about a year ago | (#43989533)

Bismuth is very slightly radioactive, not sure I'd trust memory that is generating it's own bit-rot via alpha decay.

Re:Bismuth = Radioactive (1)

martijn hoekstra (1046898) | about a year ago | (#43990133)

Bismuth is very slightly radioactive, not sure I'd trust memory that is generating it's own bit-rot via alpha decay.

For very slight values of radioactive. It's half-life time is ~10^20 years. I think I can we can have enough error correction bits to deal with that.

Bismuth ferrite, by contrast, and can represent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43990443)

Huh?

Your Computer Feeling Sluggish and Constipated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991749)

This may be just what it needs, Gives a whole new meaning to memory dump

I suppose we just settled the age old argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991981)

http://chanarchive.org/4chan/b/452/bismuth-vs-antimony

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