The single atom memory uses switching in an atomic monolayer of molybdenum disulphide (MoS2). Atomistic imaging and spectroscopy revealed that dropping a metal atom into a sulfur vacancy in the sheet results in a non-volatile change in the resistance.
The publication builds on earlier work by the research team. Two years ago Deji Akinwande, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, coined the term Atomrister to describe a non-volatile memory based on an atomic monolayer of MoS2. The team has now reduced the planar area to that of single-defect in the monolayer – about 1 square nanometer – creating the smallest memory yet.
"When a single additional metal atom goes into that nanoscale hole and fills it, it confers some of its conductivity into the material, and this leads to a change or memory effect," said Professor Akinwande.
The researchers estimate the technology could yield a memory density of about 25Tbits per square centimeter. That is 100 times higher memory density per layer compared with commercially available flash memory devices.
That said, it is possible to get memories with approaching 200 layers and capabilities will go beyond that in 2021.
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