Samsung backs graphene-based flash memory

Researchers and engineers have been looking at many potential applications for wonder material graphene in electronics.

IBM has already been working on graphene-based integrated circuits, while Nokia has been looking towards flexible touchscreens for what is likely to be the first commercial application of the material.

Now a team at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes that graphene could help produce a new generation of flash memory products.

Working with Samsung, the team has been trying to incorporate the Nobel prize winning material into its memory storage devices.  If plans come to fruition it could mean storing significantly more information on flash memory devices.

By replacing silicon, it could help extend the longevity of flash memory technology for much longer.

While graphene would not totally replace silicon in the UCLA team’s work, the researchers would use it as a storage layer.  Moreover, it would be used to extend the capabilities of existing technologies, according to TechnologyReview.

Silicon-based flash memory begins to encounter problems with interference once it gets to around the 22 nanometre mark.  This is because the size of transistor gates needs to be thicker as the process gets smaller in order to hold enough charge.

Graphene has extremely thin gates, so would allow for a lot more miniaturisation. In theory, by using graphene for storage it will make it easier to hit the 10nm mark without encountering any hitches.

Samsung is keen enough to put its name to the project.  The scientists are even talking about trying out the graphene flash on commercial processes.

Graphene flash memory should reach industry standards of 10-year projected data retention, the team showed in an ACS Nano paper.

However, at this point the team can only produce memory cells that are much larger, measuring on the micrometre rather than nanometre scale.

But should they be able to miniaturise the technology then at least graphene is a material that is relatively easy to implement, compared to some others.

The days might not yet be numbered for silicon, but it seems graphene is fast becoming either a viable alternative or a worthy complement.