• May 2012
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Thanks for the Memory: Researchers Find Room for More Data Storage in ‘Phase-Change’ Material

Johns Hopkins University (05/03/12) Phil Sneiderman

Johns Hopkins University researchers say they have discovered previously unknown properties of a phase-change memory alloy consisting of germanium, antimony, and tellurium (GST), which could lead to new forms of memory drives, movie discs, and computer systems.  The researchers say that GST could enable memory devices to retain data more quickly, last longer, and allow for more capacity than current systems.  GST currently is used in rewritable optical media, but Johns Hopkins researchers used diamond-tipped tools to find new electrical resistance characteristics that could make GST even more useful to the computer and electronic industries.  “This phase-change memory is more stable than the material used in the current flash drives,” says Johns Hopkins researcher Ming Xu.  Although GST has been in use for at least 20 years, it is still unknown exactly how it switches from one state to another because it happens so quickly.  The researchers used a process called X-ray diffraction to trigger the change more gradually.  They were able to tune the electrical resistivity of the material during the time between its change from amorphous to crystalline form.  “By having a wide range of resistance, you can have a lot more control,” says Johns Hopkins professor En Ma.

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