A new silicon memory chip is being developed. This is the first purely silicon oxide-based Resistive Ram memory chip. These ReRam memory chips are being developed based on materials, usually oxides, that can remember the change in electrical resistance when a voltage is applied.
The first practical chip built like this was revealed in 2008 by HP Labs and it was based on titanium dioxide, but the first concept was originally envisioned in 1971 by circuit theorist Leon Chua. The memristor’s electrical resistance is not constant but depends on the history of the current that had previously flowed through the device.
The UCL team’s new chip is based on silicon oxide and the result is that this chip can operate in ambient conditions without the requirement of a vacuum environment making it cheaper and more reliable than other oxide based chips. This chip’s design also allows for transparent versions with applications in the touch-screen display industry, the UCL team is currently working on a quartz version for this application.
“Our ReRAM memory chips need just a thousandth of the energy and are around a hundred times faster than standard Flash memory chips,” said Dr Tony Kenyon from UCL’s Electronic and Electrical Engineering department.
This could lead to a breakthrough in artificial intelligence development because the UCL devices can also be designed to have a continuously variable resistance that depends on the last voltage that was applied. This is an important property that allows the device to mimic how neurons in the brain function. The technology has promising applications beyond memory storage. The team are also exploring using the resistance properties of their material not just for use in memory but also as a computer processor.