A new type of non-volatile computer memory that can withstand higher temperatures has been developed at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

Image: Laurent Jegou/ Flickr

This makes it useful for computers capable of managing systems in what are known as harsh environments, such as satellites, aircraft turbines and motor vehicle engines. More specifically, this memory can be integrated into sensors that are used for structural health monitoring.

Examples of non-volatile memory include the cards used to store information in most digital cameras and music players, or the solid state drives (SSDs) that are replacing hard drives in some computers. Non-volatile memory does not require constant power to keep data intact. New data is stored by applying an electrical current, but once changed, it remains intact without any power connected.

The greatest weakness of non-volatile memory is its sensitivity to heat. At temperatures above 70°C, data loss is accelerated at an exponential rate with every additional degree of temperature. A*STAR’s phase change memory operates reliably at temperatures as high as 150°C while accessing data 500 times faster than current flash memory cards and SSDs. To achieve this, a team at A*STAR’s Data Storage Institute developed new materials with better stability and temperature resistance that can still be produced using the same methods employed to make current electronic chips.

Preliminary tests suggest the new memory will safely undergo at least as many read/write cycles as current flash memory devices before wearing out. They should also store data safely for up to ten years.

The researchers have subjected the new memory to radiation testing with the goal of using it in space missions and will continue to develop materials that will handle even higher temperatures. The research project was completed this year.



For further information contact:

Dr Franck Ernult
Data Storage Unit
Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore
Email: franck_ge@dsi.a-star.edu.sg