Sept. 6, 2012
-- Researchers in the United States and South Korea have both reported findings regarding a new material that will solve a huge problem currently plaguing computers across the globe. It’s estimated that Americans spend $6billion per year on the electricity it takes the keep track of work which hasn’t yet been saved to computer hard drives. Currently, RAM memory requires a constant electrical current in order to function; this computer multitasking is costing households thousands of dollars in energy bills as the machines work RAM memory running smoothly. But a new way of manipulating molecules has been discovered which may pave the way for energy-efficient RAM memory.
Hard drives are ‘stable’ memory, storing information as strips of magnetic orientation recorded on a magnetic disc; no extra electricity is required to power this type of memory, and once something is saved there, it is saved regardless of a power source. But RAM memory is known as ‘volatile’
memory, which means that if the power being fed to the computer were to be suddenly switched off, the information stored in the RAM memory would be lost forever. Whilst there are some alternatives to conventional RAM which don’t consume high levels of electricity, they are often heavy and expensive.
The breakthrough which may allow electricity bills to be drastically reduced, came about as a complete accident. A crystalline organic compound, made out of cheap children’s building blocks, was the subject of some light-hearted experiment between chemists at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a postdoctoral fellow from Harvard University. It was discovered that after a slight tweak, they could get the molecules within the compound to stack on top of one another, creating a new material.
The new material is what’s known as ‘ferroelectric’
, which means that one of the sides is negatively charged while the other is positively charged. Running electricity through such a material flips the charges, and the orientation of each side will remain the same until another surge of electricity is passed through it. The complex manipulation of the molecules has led the scientists to discover ways in which they can change the molecules and put them together in different ways. Rather than with conventional RAM, which requires resistors linked together in an electrically-
charged circuit, this new type of memory would not need a constant power source in order to preserve the data it holds, thus changing the way data is stored by computers forever.
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