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HP Labs Creates Densest Memory Chips To Date 154

Posted by timothy
from the gigglebytes dept.
Ruger writes "CRN has this article about memory circuits 10 times more dense than today's silicon chips. R. Stanley Williams, director of Quantum Science Research at HP Labs said the high-density memory his team created fits inside a square micron. That's so small that 1,000 of the circuits could fit on the end of a strand of human hair."
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HP Labs Creates Densest Memory Chips To Date

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  • by addps4cat (216499) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:18PM (#4231812) Homepage
    Once again they use "a single strand of hair" as some sort of SI unit. Something isn't small until you tell someone how many you can fit on a strand of hair.

    - phranck@nycap.rr.com
  • ADODB.Field
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    Either BOF or EOF is True, or the current record has been deleted; the operation requested by the application requires a current record. /sections/BreakingNews/breakingnews.asp, line 131
  • I thought Carly and the honchos from Compaq were killing all hardware level design work. This may be the last hurrah from HP Labs.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Golias (176380) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:19PM (#4231817)
    Why do the guys at HP labs want to date memory chips?

    Oh wait... never mind.

  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:23PM (#4231845) Homepage
    Can someone put this in terms that make sense for a normal person?
    How many Libraries of Congress would fit in a ponytail?
  • Has anyone noticed that we are constantly being deluged with a slew of new technologies/products/techniques, but very rarely do we actually hear of a new product being released that is based on one of the aforementioned technologies?
    • but very rarely do we actually hear of a new product being released that is based on one of the aforementioned technologies

      elsewhere:

      Still, the technology is at least five years from being commercially available, Williams said.

      Are you gonna remember this in 5 years? These technologies are effecting us every day, but they just happen to be the ones we thought were cool 5 years ago, and seem like just another computer component today.
    • Well, just today, Slashdot posted an article about a forthcoming 320GB hard drive [slashdot.org] using, gosh darnit, aforementioned technologies. Is that good enough for you?

      Read the article, man. They expect it to take five years for this technology to produce something you can buy at the store. By then you'll have forgotten about this story completely, and your illusion of ideas never producing products will be preserved.
    • Sorry - I guess what I said didn't express the point I wanted to make.

      What I was trying to say was that whenever we hear a new product being announced, we don't hear 'This new hard drive is based on the super-magna-store technology we developed three years ago'. We just hear 'New Product! Increased capacity/speed/resolution/etc!'
      • by DeadMoose (518744)

        Maybe because a press release saying:

        "We've got a hot new product based on bleeding-edge technology!"

        sounds a little better than:

        "We've got a hot new product, based on technology that we proved physically possible three years ago ago, and have only now managed to make commercially feasable!"

  • by sjonke (457707)
    Just how small does your 640 KB of RAM need to be?
  • So by this I can infer that denser=
    a) Higher capacity, fits more into less space
    b) Increased retention, memory doesn't blank when power is lost
    c) Cheaper, costs less to produce
    d) Size. Could fit the same capacity in a smaller space
    -How about speed? Is this fast RAM or does density increase latency?
    -If it fits into the size of a human hair, could this technology be used to develop really tiny monitoring devices or other PC hardware?

    Mr. Bond, I'm afraid your hair is bugged, how does a buzz-cut sound... - phorm
  • Butter! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dark Lord Seth (584963) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:31PM (#4231904) Journal

    And the success rate for the manufacturing process was only about 20 percent. The biggest challenge was sticking -- something anyone who has fried an egg can understand.

    "When we peeled the mold off, we had a material, or parts of the circuit, just literally pull away," he said. "That's a problem we have to address and improve in our processing."

    The answer to sticky memory circuits is clearly to use butter, lots of butter. Hey, it works for the eggs and the guy said it was compareable...

  • by jukal (523582) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:33PM (#4231924) Journal
    This is alarming! If they continue making progress at current late, it will take only aproximately 42 years until they have created a memory chip so dense, that no bytes can escape, infact the chip sinks through the fabric of space-time. Any data within 42 square kilometers will be suck in through the event horizon. The only escape from being drawn inside is growing a big head, since the Schwarzschild radius is aproximately 30 cm.
  • ...so now we have to wait for architectures fast enough to effectively use the data.

    Ho, 64-bit archs: You're now only a quick-fix.
  • by Bingo Foo (179380) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:37PM (#4231952)
    ...a Beowulf cluster of these would look like Chewbacca.
    • That's the first Beowulf cluster joke that made me laugh. I'm good for another 1000 now.
    • And when they improve the technology, and make it even smaller ... would that make your Beowulf cluster look like an Ewok?

    • by Bingo Foo (179380) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @07:44PM (#4233079)
      I'd sincerely like to thank the moderator who called this very little joke "overrated" at +4.

      Linearly additive, [-1,5] integer moderation is broken. I would love to see, as part of the "about" or "faq" on the left of /. pages, a statistical abstract of post moderations. At the very least, I'd like to see a histogram of posts' scores. I'll bet there are far more 5's than there are 3's. That's just plain wrong.

      This isn't about karma, its about ordering the relevance/importance/whatnot of posts, and these are separate issues from posters' karma. What's a slashdotter to do? My personal leaning is toward lobbying Taco to implement log(percentile) scoring, maybe just as a user preference. Or skinnable scoring with user-defined functions, whaddaya think Taco?

      IIRC, there were a lot of posters here circa the 2000 elections with all kinds of ideas on equitable voting schemes. Put some of that experience into devising a better moderation scheme and deluge the editors with stories and "ask slashdots" about it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:39PM (#4231967)
    Carly and co. want to shed all the research and development departments here in HPC. Every single team has been told to show what they are working on will create a profit for the company within one year, or expect to be downsized. All research has stopped, its all development now. Every group is scrambling to get something published within the next few months, everyone is working on papers to get published at symposiums or mainstream press. Of course, everyone has updated their resumes.

    I have to post anonymously because all our jobs are on the line and everyone is living with the fear of getting laid off. Another 10% are going to go soon, every department head has been told to choose their next cuts.
    • I'm shocked, shocked that a CEO would pursue short-term gains that will profit her personally at the expense of the company's long-term well-being.

      Mmm... pump and dump.

    • If you're posting from work, it's unlikely that anonymous slashdot accounts are enough to hide behind. I would figure that as someone who works at HP you would know this, so either you're offsite or SSHing around the firewall.

      In fact, My employer is monitoring me right now, so let's give them a big round of applause for leveraging their core competencies, value-adding, and remembering that every client begins with "CLI" and there is no "I" in "Quit," and all that.

      Heh. Well. Um... Ah, yes. You firewall guys know I'm kidding right? uh hello?

    • Who really cares if they've made chips a thousand times smaller than current chips, with a thousand times the capicty? With palladium [epic.org] coming [boston.com] its not like you're going to be free [eff.org] to do anything worthwhile [gentoo.org] with them.
    • Carly and co. want to shed all the research and development departments here in HPC. Every single team has been told to show what they are working on will create a profit for the company within one year, or expect to be downsized. All research has stopped, its all development now. Every group is scrambling to get something published within the next few months, everyone is working on papers to get published at symposiums or mainstream press. Of course, everyone has updated their resumes.

      This is a very strange comment. The report is about work being done in HP Labs, which I believe would be called HPL not HPC. Was this a typo (preview is your friend) or is HPC some other part of the company that has been doing long term research that more properly belongs in HPL as the corporate research laboratory. If management is just telling people to focus on their own responsibilities, rather than doing other people's jobs, then I don't see what the big fuss is about.

  • HP Labs Creates Densest Memory Chips To Date

    Great, we'll all have valley-girl memory in our computers by 2005...

    CPU --> Store like 0C 0F 12 14 at totally !3789AC3
  • Dns? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Viking Coder (102287) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:43PM (#4231991)
    Ths s fntstc! Th mst dns mmry vr md!

    Mb th hckrs knw smthng we dn't..
  • HP Labs Creates Densest Memory Chips To Date

    By Matthew Fordahl, AP
    San Jose, Calif.
    6:29 PM EST Mon., Sept. 09, 2002
    Using molecules as building blocks, Hewlett-Packard researchers have created memory circuits 10 times more dense than today's silicon
    chips under a process that could be faster and cheaper than current technology.

    The advance announced Monday could lead to more memory within a smaller space than what is now possible.

    "We believe molecular electronics will push advances in future computer technology far beyond the limits of silicon," said R. Stanley
    Williams, director of Quantum Science Research at HP Labs.

    The high-tech industry's growth has been driven by packing more transistors -- or switches -- into smaller slivers of silicon. Within
    the next decade, however, current technology is expected to reach physical limits.

    Researchers are looking for approaches that could continue the pace of innovation, yet without abandoning completely the industry's
    silicon foundation.

    Williams, who presented his findings at a symposium for the 175th anniversary of the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, said
    the high-density memory his team created fits inside a square micron. That's so small that 1,000 of the circuits could fit on the end of
    a strand of human hair.

    The memory is rewritable -- held on an organic synthetic molecule -- and can preserve information even after voltage is cut. It behaves
    much like today's flash memory, commonly used in digital cameras, music players and cell phones to store information even after a
    device has been turned off.

    The difference is that the new memory could be much cheaper to make.

    Conventional semiconductor products are created by etching transistors into silicon by shining light onto light-sensitive chemicals.
    Williams' approach is more akin to contact printing used in creating vinyl records -- but at a very small scale.

    The masters were created in about a day. They were then pressed into a polymer layer on a silicon wafer, and then into a single layer
    of electronically switchable molecules on top of the silicon. Such molecules switch on and off just like a standard transistor.

    "It took just a few minutes to make an imprint," Williams said.

    Still, the technology is at least five years from being commercially available, Williams said.

    "Things are moving along faster than we anticipated," he said. "Even given that, we're just now demonstrating feasibility, and it's a
    long way from feasibility to product."

    The demonstration memory holds about 64 bits of data, thousands of times smaller than the 128 megabytes in the much larger chips
    found in today's personal computers.

    And the success rate for the manufacturing process was only about 20 percent. The biggest challenge was sticking -- something anyone
    who has fried an egg can understand.

    "When we peeled the mold off, we had a material, or parts of the circuit, just literally pull away," he said. "That's a problem we have
    to address and improve in our processing."

    Williams' group also built a simple logic circuit that can address specific areas of nanoscale memory.

    "It's a necessary step in order to have a real memory made out of this technology," he said.

    The work is "a very important step forward in a years-long effort," said James C. Ellenbogen, principal scientist in the Nanosystems
    Group at the MITRE Corp., a not-for-profit research company.

    "This is certainly a really impressive step forward for them and the whole research program as well as for the entire electronics
    industry worldwide."

    Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published,
    broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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    Oh crap.... DMCA/DCMA (same diff) boy am I in trouble!
  • bald people won't have computers?


  • What do you do with a computer with unlimited speed and an infinite amount of memory?
  • We seem to see these super jumps forward in memory/store/processing power using various combinations of holography, molecular storage, quantum tunneling and warp space...yet I still see the same size memory available on pricewatch [pricewatch.com] for the same prices.

    When will any of these advancements be available for my machine? In a store near me?

    --
    Mike
  • So does this mean i can get soon 10gb ram's and put there that stinking wind0ze to perhaps to prevent it from being so damn lagged even with newest hardware available?

    Tho, even i'd had that amount of ram it would be one pain the ass trick to get wind0ze into ram and boot it from there... so anyone done that? ;)

    time is 12:48AM here, perhaps it's time to get my breakfast... and change coffee to juice =)
    • YES, this is *EXACTLY* what it means. With the fact that this memory is faster than hard drives and unlike your RAM keeps its memory when voltage is removed.

      I can see putting 5 or 10G in a box for the OS and applications. Hard drives will be for your content perhaps.

      Perhaps Windows will still be around by the time this makes it to market. So what? Windows itself may be fast, and may be be _more_ stable by that time. Now take that same system put a Unix on it and compare. Same old game, just faster and better.

      I'll take my BSD, Linux and OS X any day, thank you. 5G boot strap for the OS on my Mac? Oh yeah...
    • OMG!! That's it!!! i'm going to buy a 512mb DDR chip next paycheck, and use a DOS Ramdrive program, and boot windows 98 from RAM!! it HAS to work!! Reece, PS. if i manage to ever a afford a 512mb chip, i am trying this!! and no, i am NOT (excessivly) insane!
  • Using Molecules as Building Blocks!!!! WHOAH! Jebus! That's never been done before.

    ...and this little factoid,
    "about 64 bits of data, thousands of times smaller than the 128 megabytes"

    More like 2 million times smaller.

    But seriously, now, isn't this aricle a bit to dumb-downed and fluffed up for Slashdot?
    Oh...wait. We don't read the articles anymore.
  • As much as IBM researchers, etc.. would like to believe that silicon will die and be replaced in the near future I doubt it will happen soon. Producing memory with size on the order of a micron is virtually useless. At the moment the limiting factor in the fabrication of integrated circuits are interconnections. Yes! The little pieces of metal that transfer signals around the IC. Currently 90% of delay in an IC is no longer due to the transistor but instead is cause by propagation delay through the transmission line. As it is not possible to fabricate transmission lines that can actually connect to memory as small as is discussed here, I can not see how this memory can be utilized. Does anyone know of interconnect solutions that could be used?
    • One advantage to sub-micron device structures (here, what, 125 nm2 devices, right, given 64 bits per square micron) is they are as near-field as you could want. Still, it is hard to see how you can get better stipline performance without going to superconducting materials. That is a long dicussion, better served by someone who knows more about it.

      What's the net result? Probably superconducting interconnects will be necessary to take advantage of this type of memory. Conductors with highly desirable LC characteristics (read nanotubes) may be another way to accomplish this without going to low temperature.

      Alternatively, asyncronous memory access / processing may be useful, though I know nothing about those ideas.
  • A North Carolina man is suing Hans Wieman after he is arrested when authorities discover 450TB of kiddie pr0n in his hair-brush.
  • ok, now it's up to Bill Gates to take away what technology has given us. How fast can we consume all those bits?

    Let's see... what are the implications?...

    - Buffer overruns can REALLY clobber something important - not just create security problems. Now a buffer overrun might overwrite your entire collection of illegal MP3's stored in memory.

    - You can now fit millions of pr0n mpegs onto the head of a ...

    - The DNA mapping of the human genome can now be contained onto something the size of a human hair (isn't it already?)

    And I thought Carley was just a little dense. Now she is densest!

  • I really thought we'd all be paper-less by 1990...and I'm still waiting. I can organize my data, but if it hits paper...it's gone.

  • Rambus has publicly hailed the news, stating, "We hope to work together with HP, creating an industry standards group, to ensure the full potential of this exciting new technology is met."

    In unrelated news, Rambus' lawyers have filed a series of initial patents, intending to amend them later as more details become available. Ivanna Bendemover, Rambus' CEO reassured everyone at the standards group that this has nothing to do with the new technology, stating, "You can trust Rambus to only have the industry's very best interests at heart."

  • I seem to recall people making memory, or at least ROM where bits were stored as single atoms just a few weeks ago (and on slashdot no less). Is this stuff more dense that that?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Back in the good old U.S.S.R., workers in the factories were encouraged to make heavy/dense electrical engines. The workers simply began adding weights to the motors, not actually increasing their horsepower or anything, and as a result, the U.S.S.R. made some of the heaviest engines in the world. Now, I doubt that's what's happening here (and the use of "dense" may not have anything to do with these types of chips), but I figured you'd appreciate the little story I had, courtesy of my Economics book.
  • this is the really cool stuff here: http://opticb.uoregon.edu/~mosswww/memory/shm.html [uoregon.edu] .... yeah baby! can't wait till we can fit our entire music collection on one storage cube.

    -eek
  • I dont know how stable this technology will be... what happens if I'm writing an email and my hair spontaineously catches on fire? blue screen of death? core dump?
  • "That's so small that 1,000 of the circuits could fit on the end of a strand of human hair."

    I can never understand why the mainstream media is so fixated with meaningless comparisons when covering science and technology. Is human hair some sort of benchmark in the memory industry? Do we care how many of these would fit on the end of a human hair? It seems like anything tiny is always compared to human hair ("fifty billion nanomachines could fit on the end of a human hair") and the benchmark for big things is the football field ("the solar wing is equal to the length of 200 football fields!"). Can't we dream up something more original?

  • With the amount of memory something like that could produce, I could finally ramdisk my pr0n collection.

    I'm sick of waiting for those images to load.

  • There are two cool things here. One is the use of a molding technology to replace photolithography. AFAIK this technique was pioneered by George Whitesides [harvard.edu].

    The second is the memory element, described only as "an organic synthetic molecule" acting as a non-volatile memory. Non-volatile is good; that means instant-on laptops. As for what it is, they don't say, but their recent work has involved rotaxane and catenane (see Figure 2 [aeiveos.com]). Bit flips in those molecules are reversible, another good thing, since you don't want memory that gets tired over time.

    This is all cool fun stuff, and I'm glad for it, but I had really been hoping for a follow-up of HP and UCLA's brilliant work on molecular combinatorial logic [google.com] in January. If they could add an active gain stage to that stuff, they'd really have something amazing.

  • This to match HP's densest management decision [slashdot.org] to date.
  • by Atrus5 (537814)
    In the future children get constant free memory upgrades, wig sales will increase dramaticlly, and the only people who are bald will be the "computing impaired"
  • That seems to be the theme song of semiconductor fabrication by printing. We've been hearing about solar cells fabricated by printing for decades, display devices fabricated by printing for years, and now this. So far, nothing seems to have shipped.

    Most previous enthusiasm for this idea was for applications where you want lots of area but modest density, like displays. It's impressive that HP made it work at micron scale. But it's not clear that it's useful.

    It's more interesting that they made a smaller RAM cell. The mask and fab people were ahead of the device people early this year; they could fab a transistor too small to work. (That means the device physics people have to go to work on the problem.) This new gate may be interesting, with or without the "printing" approach.

  • Here's a scenario... in the future memory is virtually infinite. Gigs upon gigs for next to no cost in money & space. What will the government use all this storage for? Keeping archives of all your communications for "law enforcement" possibilities.
    Currently the only real thing stopping the governments keeping records of every single one of your emails and phone calls is the fact that storing them is physically impossible. This sort of development scares me as it's just one step further towards a surveillance society.
  • Okay, this is a great accomplishment. I am studying at KTH (Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology) where the symposium took place -- actually, I talked to a guy yesterday right after he came out of it.

    Anyway, it's cool but I just want to run some numbers before we get too impressed. They say it'll be 5 years before this is practical, and it's a tenfold gain in density. Now, what's the expected gain in density over the same period in a Moore's Law-type expectation?

    My trusty desktop calculator (a.k.a. Python) tells me that 2^(5/1.5) is 10.0793683992. Pretty damn close. So yay, we're still on track.

    I wish the article gave more details, though. The guy I talked to had a much better description of how this thing works.

FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies.

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