MeRAM-photographs-UCLA.img_assist_custom-350x212Computer memory is a vital component to any system build, making high-powered applications, including graphics, video, and gaming, a possibility. Random Access Memory [RAM] modules offer storage of temporary computer data, up to 32 GB on some systems, at a much faster rate than accessing a hard drive.

Typical RAM access times range in the nanosecond [billionths of a second] range, while hard drive access times range in the millisecond [thousandths of a second] range. One problem though, especially in installations including data centers and server farms where efficiency is paramount, is energy consumption and heat generation.

Current RAM technology is based on the flow of electrical current, which equates to consumption, as well as generating heat. High-end computer systems require sophisticated cooling systems to keep components from failing due to excessive heat generation. Additionally, unlike flash memory, RAM data is lost when the power is lost.

A new efficient RAM technology, developed by University of California in Los Angeles [UCLA] researchers, makes use of magnetic materials and is based on voltage instead of current.

The new memory, called MeRAM for MagnetoElectric RAM, by using voltage instead of current, doesn’t draw nearly as much electricity, making it up to 1,000 times more efficient. It also has the ability, much like flash memory, to retain data after the power is cut, but is much faster. Finally, another benefit of the new technology is size, as MeRAM’s data bits are on the nanoscale.

“Once developed into a product,” Pedram Khalili, research associate in UCLA electrical engineering added, “MeRAM’s advantage over competing technologies will not be limited to its lower power dissipation, but equally importantly, it may allow for extremely dense MRAM. This can open up new application areas where low cost and high capacity are the main constraints.”

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