A South Korean research team has discovered a way of storing information in each atom simply by adjusting voltage. This would allow a device to store 1,000 times more information while using existing semiconductor materials, which suggests it could be made commercially available.
Lee Jun-hui, professor of Energy and Chemical Engineering at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and his team announced Thursday that they found a way that can increase the capacity of existing HfO2 semiconductors 1,000fold. This means 30,000 high-definition movies, equivalent to 500 terabytes, can be stored in something that is the size of a nail.
The research team looked at “FRAM,” a promising memory that could replace DRAM or nand flash memory. FRAM reads and writes using ferroelectricity which allows atoms to change position when electrified. It records and removes information 1,000 times faster than flash memory and retains information even when the power is off.
The line width of semiconductor circuits is down to 5nm, and the new discovery could potentially reduce it to 0.5nm or lower. “Individual atoms will be controlled without affecting one another just like piano keys,” said Professor Lee. “They can be combined to store numerous new information, and 1,000 more information can be stored using the same memory.”
This is the first time that it was proven that applying voltage could remove atomic interactions at room temperature. This has been found only in superconductivity where electrical resistance vanishes at 200 degrees below zero, which makes it difficult to apply it in real life.
“I was thinking of ways to remove atomic interactions in everyday life when I thought of electricity which is widely available,” said Professor Lee. “It could be applied to any semiconductor that uses electricity.” The research was featured in an international journal on Friday.