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Technology & Innovation

Breakthrough: Instant Computer Memory

I.B.M. has solved two related problems with phase-change memory and now says the next-generation data-storage technology will be ready for use in 2016 in servers.

What’s the Latest Development?

Research into phase-change technology has yielded a computer chip that is 100 times more powerful than the current flash memory used in most computers and servers. Whereas consumer electronics prioritize the cost per bit ratio, the new chip would primarily target the server market where speed is paramount. “Our main application, being in the server business, is enterprise storage and memory applications,” says I.B.M.’s Haris Pozidis. “Phase-change memory records data through heat changes in the electrical properties of a tiny patch of the glasslike chalcogenide material.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Phase-change research is, by now, decades old, but recent advances indicate it may be a promising avenue in which to pursue further technological innovation. “I.B.M.’s phase-change memory (P.C.M.) technology isn’t yet ready for real-world use, but the improvements in multilevel storage and drift tolerance means the technology should be competitive in 2016 for the server applications I.B.M. has in mind.” The technology, however, is making gains in other markets with different requirements, like Samsung mobile phones, which uses P.C.M. instead of flash memory.


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