Carnegie Mellon University

computer memory drive

December 11, 2018

A universal memory

By Daniel Carroll

Krista Burns

In our data-laden and increasingly connected world, the demand for long-term, low-power, high-capacity memory storage continues to grow. Various types of memory enable the function of everything from IoT devices and cell phones to embedded sensor networks, however a truly “universal” form of memory device has continued to elude scientists. While the most current technology under development, known as racetrack memory, may meet these requirements, its propensity for creating errors in stored data makes it unreliable.

Professors Larry Pileggi and Jimmy Zhu were recently awarded a patent for a cutting-edge form of memory device which they’ve termed “magnetic shift register.”

The technology is non-volatile, meaning information can be stored for long periods of time without having to maintain power to the memory unit; this also helps minimize the power requirement, making it perfect for large embedded sensor networks. And, unlike it’s “racetrack” competitor, the technology exhibits a high degree of robustness in performance, meaning the data is stored consistently and reliably with fidelity.

With this development, Pileggi and Zhu believe that they may have found the long-sought-after universal memory, having created a storage device with a combination of speed, reliability, and density to forever change the world of computing.

Their creation has major implications for not only high-focus technologies like sensor networks but could potentially change the architecture and path of computing itself. A true universal memory could be used in a computer to replace both the DRAM, which holds most of the information but requires power and takes longer to access, and SRAM, which is faster and does not require power, but is costly and less storage dense.

With storage a constant and ever-increasing concern, it is doubtless that they’re innovative new design will attract much attention from a broad range of industries, both established and emerging.