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Ferrodiode memory tested in 600 degree Celsius environment for 60 hours

Forward-looking: Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have demonstrated a new type of memory that can operate in extremely hot environments. The non-volatile ferroelectric diode (ferrodiode) memory utilizes a 45nm thin layer of synthesized aluminum scandium nitride (AlScN), which can retain its electrical state after an electric field is taken away. The insulator was surrounded by an ideal ratio of nickel and platinum and grown on four-inch silicon wafers.

The team said it took months of research to find what they described as the Goldilocks thickness for the metal / insulator / metal structures. The AlScN’s crystal structure is not just heat resistant, but also generally quite durable.

In testing, the researchers were able to run the memory at a staggering 600 degrees Celsius (or 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit) for more than 60 hours, all while operating at less than 15 volts. According to Penn Today, that is more than twice the heat tolerance of any commercially available memory product on the market today. For comparison, most silicon based flash memory drives tend to exhibit failure starting at around 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit).

What’s more, the design and properties of the memory device allow for fast switching between states, which is critical for reading and writing data at high speeds.

Potential applications for memory that can handle high-heat environments are aplenty. For the average consumer, thermal shutdown when using a smartphone on a hot summer day could be an annoyance of the past. The tech could also enable new devices that integrate a processor and memory more closely together, reducing the amount of time needed for data to travel between the components, thus enhancing speed. It could also lead to computers that require less active cooling, cutting down on energy bills.

High temp memory could additionally find a home in extreme environments where modern memory tech falters, like in deep-earth drilling and space exploration. “This isn’t just about improving devices, said Deep Jariwala, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s electrical and systems engineering department, “it’s about enabling new frontiers in science and technology.”

It is unclear if the memory is equally suited for working in extremely cold environments.

The researchers’ findings have been published in the journal Nature under the headline, “A scalable ferroelectric non-volatile memory operating at 600 °C.”

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