Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles are developing the future of RAM. MeRAM, an upgrade from MRAM, is a new standard of non-volatile and power efficient memory which could be used to make better and faster computers in the future.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles are developing the future of RAM, the computer component which stands between hefty but sluggish hard drives, and the processor of PCs. MeRAM, which stands for magnetoelectric RAM, is the university's improvement on one advanced RAM technology known as MRAM, or Magnetoresistive RAM.
An implimentation of magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM)
MRAM used spin transfer torque (STT) technology, which depends on the rotation and charge of electrons to store information. MRAM does not have great data density, meaning that less information can be stored on a chip of it. This is because the electrons on which STT is based cannot be too close together, or else errors can occur when writing data
The University of California's MeRAM fixes this problem by using a different method to write information to chips, which makes MeRAM five times more efficient when it comes to data density. Not only that, but the new method also allows the RAM to use 10 to 1000 times less energy.
A schematic of magnetoelectric RAM (MeRAM)
When it comes to RAM, there are many types of RAM which have seen the light of day and then back into the dustbin. At different times, an average desktop computer might have contained SRAM, DRAM, Rambus DRAM, SDRAM, and the most commonly used today, DDR SDRAM. The most current of the latter is DDR3, a standard which no gamer worth his weight in feathers would ever go without.
But as various as these types may seem, they all have at least one thing in common: volatility. That is to say that, almost all RAM loses its memory as soon as it loses power. In fact, this is part of the reason why hard drives exist – RAM is not suitable for long term storage, because it always has to be connected to a power source.
But MeRAM and its predecessor are exceptions to this principle of volatility. MeRAM is actually a type of “Non-Volatile RAM”. This means that the chips are capable of holding memory even while the system is powered down.
One advantage of non-volatility includes the fact that, when a computer system with non-volatile memory experienced power loss, unsaved data wouldn't necessarily disappear like it would in regular computers. Using MeRAM, a computer could potentially boot back up into its original state, all information left intact.
Computer processors are getting faster, hard drives are getting faster, and now it is time for RAM take a step further in its development. Thankfully, it won't be difficult to get MeRAM on the market, since it is constructed similarly to MRAM. Therefore, manufacturers already producing MRAM could potentially start creating the new standard without entirely new facilities.