Transparent transitors are nothing new: they’re used in LCDs, but they’ve never before been assembled into a full, working memory device. But now Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology scientists have crafted them into the world’s first see-through flash-memory chip.
The device makes use of a transparent zinc oxide layer, and bits are stored when localized resistance changes are made in the layer–a technology called resistive RAM. The connections to the transistors are made using typical indium tin oxide electrodes, resulting in a microscope-slide-alike memory chip. Commercial applications are expected in three to four years.
So far so groovy, but what use is this invention? For the time being the most obvious uses would be novel ones: it’s easy to imagine entirely transparent USB memory sticks selling well. In the future, it’s likely this technlogy would find uses in different places: a display with much of the processing circuitry layered within it, rendered in transparent transistors, would make many concept gadgets a possibility.
On a lighter (or is it darker?) note: the image that first arose in my mind on reading about this? HAL 9000’s memory units from 2001: A Space Odyssey.