Think about where you store your information and the processes behind the storing of that information. We have DRAM to hard disk drives and flash memory as well. IBM has made a breakthrough in phase-change memory (PCM) that might replace flash storage and RAM. IBM Research engineers have released their findings in a journal video named Reliable Triple-Level-Cell-Phase-Change Memory Demonstrated for the First Time

Dr. Haris Pozidis, a non-volatile memory scientist for IBM Research explains how the technology works:

The storing of a '0' or a '1', as known as 'bits', on PCM storage the following methods are followed:

  • Apply a heated current to glass materials at 600 degrees centigrade, the material melts and then when it is cooled rapidly, then the material becomes solid, but is in an amorphous state. 
  • Then the amorphous state material is heated at 200 degrees centigrade and leads to crystallisation, which leads to a polycrystalline phase. 
  • Blu-ray DVDs are created this way

Recently, only 1 bit was stored, per cell, but the scientists at IBM have made a breakthrough whilst testing the technology out and are successfully storing 3-bits per cell. 

"Reaching 3 bits per cell is a significant milestone because at this density the cost of PCM will be significantly less than DRAM and closer to flash," said Pozidis. 

Pozidis points out that this process has been used in optical disk technology before and has been practised for 15 years but now they are able to superimpose the technology into PCM data storage. 

The hope is that the creation of this PCM data storage could be created at low cost that works with the characteristics of DRAM but at higher densities. Therefore, as PHYS points out, a mobile phone's operating system could be stored on PCM storage, leading to a phone booting in a few seconds. 

Use of PCM storage:

  • Storing databases in memory
  • Memory processing: Online banking, analytics processing
  • Add-on to storage systems: Metadata can be absorbed in PCM
  • Won't lose data when powered off 
  • It can survive 10 million write cycles - compared to flash which can only do 3,000

The engineers are looking at the possibilities of making a PCM and flash storage hybrid as well as letting PCM speak for itself as a memory storage standalone. 

For more information and how it all works, watch the video below: 

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