Wednesday, June 27th 2018

New Phase Change Memory Uses Antimony, Wants To Compete with DRAM

Researchers at IBM Zurich and Germany University of RTWH Aachen have developed a new non-volatile phase change memory with monoatomic glassy antimony, which unlike conventional phase-change-materials uses just a single element: antimony (Sb). Traditional phase-change memories use a mix of different materials, which makes things complicated when you try to shrink them down for higher storage densities, as impurities and composition differences negatively affect yields.

The novel approach is based on pure antimony films that are between 3 and 10 nanometers thick, confined between Silicon layers of 40-200 nm thickness. For their prototypes the engineers achieved a switching rate of 50 nanoseconds (20 MHz). While this doesn't sound very fast, the researchers are optimistic that this can be optimized further, their next goal is 10 nanoseconds, which is getting in the region of DRAM speeds.
Previous experiments with single-element phase-change-memory were mildly successful, having to be created carefully in thin films. Their new method uses ultra-fast cooling of the material coming out of the melt, to instantly turn it into glass, which has the desired properties. Now they apply current through some contacting structures to heat the material. By carefully controlling timing and current it becomes possible to switch the material between an electrically conducting and non-conducting state, which can be used to store a single bit of information. Unlike traditional DRAM memory, a permanent voltage supply is not required, since the material physically changes its properties, and doesn't just store a volatile electron, that needs to be refreshed from time to time.
For mass production, the biggest hurdle is the limited lifetime of the antimony glass state. At 60-70°C, which is a typical operating temperature for consumer electronics devices, that turned out to be just 100 seconds. The researchers seem confident that this can be improved, possibly by adjusting the film's thickness, using 3D structures or using better confinement materials, that might not even be silicon anymore. Sources: Paper at Nature, Nature Commentary, via Physicsworld
Add your own comment

15 Comments on New Phase Change Memory Uses Antimony, Wants To Compete with DRAM

#1
RejZoR
So, basically they are re-inventing NAND. Can we please try t stay away from memory types that degrade as we use them? I like DRAM because you can write almost unlimited amounts of data through them and they won't degrade in any way.
Posted on Reply
#2
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Um, no, because physics.

Good luck to the researchers. Sounds like they'll need it.
Posted on Reply
#3
TheLostSwede
Great, another material that's mostly found in and produced in China, just what the world needs...
Posted on Reply
#4
Vya Domus
TheLostSwede, post: 3862496, member: 3382"
Great, another material that's mostly found in and produced in China, just what the world needs...
I'm sorry but leading countries in the IC industry like the US willingly gave a good chunk of the semiconductor manufacturing business to places in Asia , no reason to be pissed about that.
Posted on Reply
#5
TheLostSwede
Vya Domus, post: 3862573, member: 169281"
I'm sorry but leading countries in the IC industry like the US willingly gave a good chunk of the semiconductor manufacturing business to places in Asia , no reason to be pissed about that.
I think you have a very poor understanding about the current situation in the world. Read up on rare earth materials out of China and you might understand my point.
Also look at how China is treating both its own people and the world around it. China is not a nice nation, although neither is Russia or the US. I guess that's something the three largest dictatorships in the world have in common...
Posted on Reply
#6
Vya Domus
TheLostSwede, post: 3862631, member: 3382"
I think you have a very poor understanding about the current situation in the world. Read up on rare earth materials out of China and you might understand my point.
Rare materials are a small portion of the reason, the majority of semiconductor manufacturing takes place in places like China simply because their political and economical structure allows them to massively undercut businesses everywhere else around the world. Which comes, as you said , at the expense of the well being of their population. Nonetheless state capitalism doesn't care how nice you are with your people , especially in communist China.
Posted on Reply
#7
AnarchoPrimitiv
Vya Domus, post: 3862641, member: 169281"
Rare materials are a small portion of the reason, the majority of semiconductor manufacturing takes place in places like China simply because their political and economical structure allows them to massively undercut businesses everywhere else around the world. Which comes, as you said , at the expense of the well being of their population. Nonetheless state capitalism doesn't care how nice you are with your people , especially in communist China.
You're missing his point, he is solely speaking about the location and source of this raw material, which is mostly concentrated in China. Just look at the list of "conflict minerals" designated by the UN and you'll see that nearly all of them share the common characteristic of being highly concentrated in one location and exceedingly rare outside, (mostly located in Africa) and this has lead to a whole list of problems such as corporations in first world countries (many times in collaboration with the Government) purposely destabilize and destroy these countries and their people to ensure a ready supply of these minerals. I'm not saying that will happen in China, but in the even this new memory becomes popular, it most certainly will have major repercussions in international politics and power relations.

Just look at the example of the mineral coultan (necessary in nearly all circuit boards these days), and how 80 percent of the world's supplies sit beneath the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how exceedingly high demand for it back in the early 2000s caused what is referred to as the "PlayStation Wars" because demand for the PS2 caused the gobal price to skyrocket and eventually led to war and crimes against humanity. Most tech enthusiasts don't realize how their hobby is a major contributor to terrible crimes against nature and humanity around the world.

"Inside Africa's PlayStation War"
https://www.wired.com/2008/07/the-playstation-2/
Posted on Reply
#8
mroofie
:roll:
TheLostSwede, post: 3862631, member: 3382"
I think you have a very poor understanding about the current situation in the world. Read up on rare earth materials out of China and you might understand my point.
Also look at how China is treating both its own people and the world around it. China is not a nice nation, although neither is Russia or the US. I guess that's something the three largest dictatorships in the world have in common...
US a dictatorship? (Lol)

Let me guess Europe is the solution?

:roll:
Posted on Reply
#9
lexluthermiester
RejZoR, post: 3862474, member: 1515"
So, basically they are re-inventing NAND. Can we please try t stay away from memory types that degrade as we use them? I like DRAM because you can write almost unlimited amounts of data through them and they won't degrade in any way.
That is exactly why the research is being done. Antimony has the potential to be a vastly more durable material.

Vya Domus, post: 3862641, member: 169281"
Rare materials
Antimony isn't that rare, and is easily processed.

This is good news. Antimony is a very versatile element that can potentially replace many of the currently viable elements being used. The tech world should really be excited about this research.
Posted on Reply
#10
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
For mass production, the biggest hurdle is the limited lifetime of the antimony glass state. At 60-70°C, which is a typical operating temperature for consumer electronics devices, that turned out to be just 100 seconds.
It's going to be decades before this research bares useful fruit, if ever.
Posted on Reply
#11
lexluthermiester
FordGT90Concept, post: 3862961, member: 60463"
It's going to be decades before this research bares useful fruit, if ever.
That's what was said about silicon 2 years before the first viable IC using it was released. Something similar was also said about Lithium 3 years before the first commercial battery was on the market..
Posted on Reply
#12
Steevo
lexluthermiester, post: 3862963, member: 134537"
That's what was said about silicon 2 years before the first viable IC using it was released. Something similar was also said about Lithium 3 years before the first commercial battery was on the market..
The true commercial viability of this technology has at least a 5 year life of research and development before it would even be considered. There are too many tech failures for every success to name. The market made the choice of silicon not due to some magic, but due to years and research of the physical properties, the next revolution isn't going to be based on anything other than what quantum properties an element has, as we are and have reached that point with silicon. Before decisions were made on the macro scale, but now we are reaching sizes where the quantum state of a material has become more important than its classical physical properties.
Posted on Reply
#13
Prima.Vera
SO China is going to get even richer if this succeeds. They only extract 77% of total World production.... Nice.
Posted on Reply
#14
TheLostSwede
Vya Domus, post: 3862641, member: 169281"
Rare materials are a small portion of the reason, the majority of semiconductor manufacturing takes place in places like China simply because their political and economical structure allows them to massively undercut businesses everywhere else around the world. Which comes, as you said , at the expense of the well being of their population. Nonetheless state capitalism doesn't care how nice you are with your people , especially in communist China.
Please don't confuse China with Taiwan, Korea and Singapore, where actually the majority of semiconductors are made. China is still way behind when it comes to that as they're 3-4 nodes behind. Sure, China makes a lot of cheap crap, but nothing cutting edge. The only reason they can undercut anyone is because of huge government grants and investment, which allows companies to sell product at cost. Indeed though, China doesn't give a crap about their own people, something you can do with you're a dictatorship.
Posted on Reply
#15
lexluthermiester
Steevo, post: 3862976, member: 19251"
at least a 5 year life of research and development
And that research is already several years in..
Posted on Reply
Add your own comment