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Light-based memory chip that permanently stores data

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London: A team of British scientists led by an Indian-origin professor has developed the world’s first entirely light-based memory chip to store data permanently that can help dramatically improve the speed of modern computing.

The new device uses the phase-change material — the same as that used in rewritable CDs and DVDs — to store data.

This material can be made to assume an amorphous state, like glass or a crystalline state, like a metal, by using either electrical or optical pulses.

The team has shown that intense pulses of light sent through the waveguide can carefully change the state of the phase-change material.

An intense pulse causes it to momentarily melt and quickly cool, causing it to assume an amorphous structure; a slightly less-intense pulse can put it into an crystalline state.

“This is a completely new kind of functionality using proven existing materials,” said professor Harish Bhaskaran from Oxford University’s department of materials.

“These optical bits can be written with frequencies of up to one gigahertz and could provide huge bandwidths. This is the kind of ultra-fast data storage that modern computing needs,” he noted.

Today’s computers are held back by the relatively slow transmission of electronic data between the processor and the memory.

“There is no point using faster processors if the limiting factor is the shuttling of information to-and-from the memory. But we think using light can significantly speed this up,” Bhaskaran explained.

For the study, the material scientists at Oxford University worked in collaboration with scientists at Karlsruhe, Munster and Exeter universities.

With this device, “we could read and write to thousands of bits at once, providing virtually unlimited bandwidth”, explained professor Wolfram Pernice from University of Munster.

The team is working on a number of projects that aim to make use of the new technology.

They are particularly interested in developing a new kind of electro-optical interconnect, which will allow the memory chips to directly interface with other components using light, rather than electrical signals.

The paper was published in the journal Nature Photonics.

(IANS)

Next Story

Scientists Produce Complex Glass From 3D Printing

The researchers can change various parameters in each layer, including pore size.

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3D printing or additive manufacturing
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Pixabay

Creating glass objects using 3D printing is not easy but a groups of researchers including one of Indian-origin has now used a better technique to produce complex glass objects with addictive manufacturing.

Researchers from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) used the method based on stereolithography, one of the first 3D printing techniques developed during the 1980s.

David Moore, Lorenzo Barbera and Kunal Masania in the Complex Materials group led by ETH processor Andre Studart developed a special resin that contains a plastic and organic molecules to which glass precursors are bonded.

The resin can be processed using commercially available ‘Digital Light Processing’ technology.

This involves irradiating the resin with UV light patterns. Wherever the light strikes the resin, it hardens because the light sensitive components of the polymer resin cross link at the exposed points.

3D Printing of molecules in hand
This image shows molecules in hand. The molecular model appears on the computer screen, tumbling and turning in real time as the person holding the object manipulates it. Pixabay

The plastic monomers combine to form a labyrinth like structure, creating the polymer. The ceramic-bearing molecules fill the interstices of this labyrinth, said the team in a paper published in the journal Natural Materials.

An object can thus be built up layer by layer. The researchers can change various parameters in each layer, including pore size.

“We discovered that by accident, but we can use this to directly influence the pore size of the printed object,” said Masania.

These 3D-printed glass objects are still no bigger than a die. Large glass objects, such as bottles, drinking glasses or window panes, cannot be produced in this way “which was not actually the goal of the project,” emphasised Masania.

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The aim was rather to prove the feasibility of producing glass objects of complex geometry using a 3D printing process. However, the new technology is not just a gimmick.

The researchers applied for a patent and are currently negotiating with a major Swiss glassware dealer who wants to use the technology in his company. (IANS)