Pat Pilcher: Resistive RAM

By Pat Pilcher

A new version of RRAM chips could be helping boost memory systems for smartphone and tablet makers soon. Photo / Thinkstock
A new version of RRAM chips could be helping boost memory systems for smartphone and tablet makers soon. Photo / Thinkstock

Crossbar, A US based tech company has developed non-volatile memory (that's a form of memory that keeps the data intact even when powered down) technology that could spur the next wave of consumer electronics-gadgety goodness.

The technology is called Resistive RAM, or RRAM. Perhaps the least exciting feature for us (but one that has engineers positively fizzing at the bung with excitement) of this RRAM tech is the fact that it consumes 20 times less power than the current crop of non-volatile memory silicon and can also deliver significantly faster write speeds.

In essence this means that the battery life of gadgets using RRAM could be better than that of today's widgets by an order of weeks or even more. The impact on portable computing could be huge thanks to ultra-fast solid state drives with massive capacities and vastly improved battery lives.

Another big benefit of RRAM is capacity. A 256GB SD card I recently reviewed may have seemed colossal, but it's just peanuts compared to what would be possible with RRAM tech.

Capacities of up to 1 Terrabyte should in theory be able to be crammed onto a postage-stamp sized piece of silicon, and even more tantalising still, is the prospect of stacking components onto RRAM chips so that multi-terabyte capacities are also possible.

This could not only see us carrying massive amounts of video and audio around on smartphones and tablets in the near future, but could also render portable hard drives obsolete as USB memory stick-sized devices with huge capacities and no moving parts become an everyday attachment on the keyrings of geek-kind world over.

Rather than being one of those interesting yet commercially non-viable technologies we so often read about, but never get to see, it looks like RRAM technology could be close to commercial reality as Crossbar has already developed a version of an RRAM chip at their own chip fabrication plant and have indicated that they are working to optimising RRAM technology for the "System on Chip" market which is great news for smartphone and tablet makers.

Here's hoping!

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