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New system could lead to faster memory chips

Posted: 24 Jun 2013  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MIT  ferroelectric  graphene  data-storage chips  surface plasmons 

Researchers at MIT have combined ferroelectric materials — the kind often used for data storage — with graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon, to form a hybrid technology that could eventually lead to computer and data-storage chips that pack more components in a given area and are faster and less power-hungry.

The new system works by controlling waves called surface plasmons. These waves are oscillations of electrons confined at interfaces between materials; in the new system the waves operate at terahertz frequencies. Such frequencies lie between those of far-infrared light and microwave radio transmissions, and are considered ideal for next-generation computing devices.

“The system would provide a new way to construct interconnected devices that use light waves, such as fiber-optic cables and photonic chips, with electronic wires and devices,” said the researchers.

Currently, such interconnection points often form a bottleneck that slows the transfer of data and adds to the number of components needed.

“The new system allows waves to be concentrated at much smaller length scales, which could lead to a tenfold gain in the density of components that could be placed in a given area of a chip,” associate professor of mechanical engineering Nicholas Fang said.

The team’s initial proof-of-concept device uses a small piece of graphene sandwiched between two layers of the ferroelectric material to make simple, switchable plasmonic waveguides. This work used lithium niobate, but many other such materials could be used.

Light can be confined in these waveguides down to one part in a few hundreds of the free-space wavelength which represents an order-of-magnitude improvement over any comparable waveguide system.

“This opens up exciting areas for transmitting and processing optical signals.”

Moreover, the work may provide a new way to read and write electronic data into ferroelectric memory devices at very high speed, the researchers added.





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