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Phase Change Memory: Faster Access Time and Lower Power Consumption

By Dick Weisinger

Phase Change Memory (PCM) is a new type of non-volatile computer memory that can respond very quickly, making it competitive with RAM memory, while capable of storing data with very low power requirements.

Phase change materials store data as bits that can change their state when exposed to an energy charge which could be done by heat, electrically or optically. Researchers at Stanford found that PCM materials are able to chane their state within one picosecond after being exposed to the energy charge.

Haris Pozidis, researcher at IBM, said that “phase-change memory is the first instantiation of a universal memory with properties of both DRAM and flash, thus answering one of the grand challenges of our industry.”

Aaron Lindenberg, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, said that “a thousandfold increase in speed coupled with lower energy use suggests a path toward future memory technologies that could far outperform anything previously demonstrated.”

Despite the fact that PCM technology is considered to still be an emerging field, predictions are that it could grow as a niche within the total memory market to $46 billion by 2026.

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