Computer memory can solve digital tech energy crisis

A new type of computer memory which could solve the digital technology energy crisis has been invented and patented by scientists from Lancaster University in the UK.

The electronic memory device described promises to transform daily life with its ultra-low energy consumption. This new device would immediately reduce peak power consumption in data centres by a fifth.

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In the home, energy savings from efficient lighting and appliances have been completely wiped out by increased use of computers and gadgets, and by 2025 a ‘tsunami of data‘ is expected to consume a fifth of global electricity.

It would also allow, for example, computers which do not need to boot up and could instantaneously and imperceptibly go into an energy-saving sleep mode even between key stokes.

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The device is the realization of the search for a “Universal Computer Memory” which has preoccupied scientists and engineers for decades.

Physics Professor Manus Hayne of Lancaster University said: “Universal Memory, which has robustly stored data that is easily changed, is widely considered to be unfeasible, or even impossible, but this device demonstrates its contradictory properties.”

The computer memory could replace the $100bn market for Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), which is the ‘working memory’ of computers, as well as the long-term memory in flash drives.

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While writing data to DRAM is fast and low-energy, the data is volatile and must be continuously ‘refreshed‘ to avoid it being lost: this is clearly inconvenient and inefficient.

Flash stores data robustly, but writing and erasing is slow, energy intensive and deteriorates it, making it unsuitable for working memory.

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