Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow University 'solution' to flash memory limit

Devices that use flash memory Image copyright other
Image caption The research team believes their approach could boost memory storage on a range of devices

Researchers from Scotland and Spain are proposing a solution to the limits on flash memory storage in devices such as memory sticks, smartphones and cameras.

Conventional silicon chips are nearing storage capacity as their components cannot be made much smaller.

The researchers believe the semiconductors in the chips can be replaced by individual molecules.

Their proposal on using metal oxide clusters, or polyoxometalates (POM), is outlined in the journal Nature.

The team from Glasgow University and Rovira i Virgili University in Catalonia say the polyoxometalates are stable enough to hold information and would not require the rebuilding of existing production lines.

'Write-once-erase'

The team was led by Professor Lee Cronin, Regius Professor of Chemistry at Glasgow University.

He said: "Conventional flash memory uses transistors whose design allows them to remember whether they have been turned on or off after they've been removed from a power source. Those transistors' positions correspond to binary, allowing data to be stored.

"We've been able to design, synthesise and characterize POM molecules that can trap charge and act as flash ram, as well as dope the inner core of the clusters with selenium to create a new type of memory we call 'write-once-erase'.

"The POM clusters provide a balance of structural stability and electronic activity and their electronic functionality is tunable, making them suitable as storage nodes for flash memory."

Prof Cronin added: "One major benefit of the POMs we've created is that it's possible to fabricate them with devices which are already widely-used in industry, so they can be adopted as new forms of flash memory without requiring production lines to be expensively overhauled."

The research team's paper, titled "Design and fabrication of memory devices based on nanoscale polyoxometalate clusters", is published in this week's edition of Nature.

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