We are going to put our skepticism aside for the moment (and that is not an easy thing to do) and talk about a breakthrough in memory technology which could potentially allow for separate RAM and Flash chips being replaced by one bank of homogeneous chips.
The news comes from North Carolina State University where researchers have just published an article in the journal Computer stating: "We've invented a new device that may revolutionize computer memory." Now that is a pretty bold statement to make and we have seen many pretenders come and go in the past (though HP’s memristor technology is still a player). The basic concept behind this new research is that the new chip will provide both volatile and non-volatile memory on the same chip providing both dynamic and long-term storage.
Currently we have volatile RAM chips with very fast access times (7ns) which need a power supply to retain their data, and non-volatile Flash storage with access times of around 1,000ns which don’t need a power supply to retain the data. The new technology, called the dual floating gate field effect transistor cell (DFG-FET), packs both these units into one cell. The new device claims faster read times that DRAM and similar speed to SDRAM (0.31-2.18 ns), a 50 ns write time for the charged state ('1'), and a 10 µs write time for the uncharged ('0') state. Non-volatile writes range from 10 to 30 µs.
The possible applications of this technology include using it to save power at server farms. Server farms cannot turn off individual servers at the moment as they would lose the information on the volatile memory but with DFG-FET this would be eliminated. The new technology would quickly write all the volatile data to non-volatile memory before power off and reverse the operation again on power-on.
Another application could see the DFG-FET technology used to create instant-on devices especially in mobile and portable gadgets. Another possibility would be space and power saving within a computer and the researchers showed off a Field-programmable Gate Array (FPGA) integrated circuit which offered both space and power savings compared to current designs.