A wholly new type of memory technology has just been revealed that uses very different silicon chip tech to store data. Why should you care about this innovation? Easy: The new Crossbar tech could mean your 2015 smartphone packs a terabyte of memory and, particularly if combined with other smartphone innovations, will run for much much longer on a single charge.
Chip startup Crossbar is named after the design of its new resistive RAM technology, which is built up of thick bars of conductors stacked up in a complex crossed pattern on a tiny sliver of silicon. The actual way the memory works is very different from the flash RAM tech that's humming away in your smartphone now. And even though flash tech is the pinnacle of decades of research and development, it's easily beaten by Crossbar's system. Its RRAM tech can pack a terabyte of nonvolatile storage onto a slice of semiconductor that's about half the size of equivalent flash storage chips—meaning that much storage is just about compatible with chip dimensions on current smartphones. RRAM can also access stored data 20 times faster than flash, and is said to last 10 times longer than its rival, which can actually slow down over time as the circuits "wear out" with repeated use. It also is said to consume 20 times less power to perform reading and writing functions.
And this is no flight of fancy, or a research innovation that's years from being production-grade: Crossbar says it can produce working devices using current generation un-modified chip fab systems. Recent innovations in screen design, mobile CPU and wireless design, battery tech, and possibly transparent solar cell technology could easily be combined with RRAM systems to make future smartphones much more energy efficient. While the average smartphone has only about a day of full use before needing a charge, it seems likely that in a few years, the tech will have advanced so they'll be lasting many days on a single charge.
[Image: Flickr user Martin Abegglen]