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Published on Apr 10, 2008
MADE IN IBM LABS: Computer memory that combines the high performance and reliability of flash with the low cost and high capacity of the hard disk drive could be closer than you think, thanks to a team of IBM scientists.
In two papers published recently in the journal Science, IBM Fellow Stuart Parkin and colleagues at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose describe both the fundamentals of a technology dubbed "racetrack" as well as a milestone in that technology. This milestone could lead to electronic devices capable of storing far more data in the same amount of space than is possible today, with lightning-fast boot times, far lower cost and unprecedented stability and durability.
Within the next ten years, racetrack memory, so named because the data "races" around the wire "track," could lead to solid state electronic devices -- with no moving parts, and therefore more durable -- capable of holding far more data in the same amount of space than is possible today. For example, this technology could enable a handheld device such as an mp3 player to store around 500,000 songs or around 3,500 movies -- 100 times more than is possible today -- with far lower cost and power consumption. The devices would not only store vastly more information in the same space, but also require much less power and generate much less heat, and be practically unbreakable: the result, massive amounts of personal storage that could run on a single battery for weeks at a time and last for decades.
The commercial availability of racetrack stands to take microelectronics into the third dimension, exceeding the two-dimensional limits of Moore's Law. And IBM is no stranger to creating entirely new markets that spring from exploratory research such as this. Just a few of the many game-changers invented at IBM Research include the memory chip, the hard disk drive and the relational database.