Scientists have announced a promising development in the quest for producing smaller and more efficient microcircuits as the basis for wearables and other small mobile devices.
With Moore's Law approaching a hard limit scientists are looking at new ways to speed up processing. One is quantum computing which is still some way off as a general purpose computing platform for everyday use, while another approach is to change the way memory works.
A new technology called Redox-based resistive switching random memory (ReRAM) is being developed by a number of major semiconductor firms and should be commercially available soon. ReRAM is a non-volatile RAM that works by changing the resistance across a dielectric solid-state material. It has a good long-term storage capacity and can be produced at nanoscale. It promises to increase I/O speeds while also reducing power consumption.
ReRAM is not only a promising alternative to traditional RAM; it may also be used as a processing platform as assistant professor Anupam Chattopadhyay from Nyang Technology University in Singapore, professor Rainer Waser from RWTH Aachen University in Germany and Dr Vikas Rana from Forschungszentrum Juelich have discovered. The scientists are working on processing data held on ReRAM in situ rather than moving it to and from a CPU. This approach is far more efficient, allowing for faster and thinner mobile devices.
There is another feature of the prototype circuitry should also allow for quicker processing too. Rather than operating on the familiar binary system (0,1), the ReRAM based circuitry being developed by the scientists stores and processes data using a quaternary number system (0,1,2,3). This should increase the processing efficiency because a quaternary number is shorter than its binary equivalent. Chattopadhyay explained that in current computer systems, all information has to be translated into a string of zeros and ones before it can be processed.
"This is like having a long conversation with someone through a tiny translator, which is a time-consuming and effort-intensive process," he said.
"We are now able to increase the capacity of the translator, so it can process data more efficiently."
Professor Waser explained that the new system is promising for the development of future IoT and wearable devices.
"These devices are energy-efficient, fast, and they can be scaled to very small dimensions," he said.
"Using them not only for data storage but also for computation could open a completely new route towards an effective use of energy in the information technology."
The findings will be published in Scientific Reports.
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