Australian researcher Sharath Sriram holding the minuscule data storage device he has developed

Nano-scale data storage mimics human brain

A novel nano-structure developed by Australian researchers paves the way for nano-scale memory devices mimicking the human brain.

The stacked nano-structure, 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, was created using thin film of a functional oxide material.

“The thin film is specifically designed to have defects in its chemistry to demonstrate a ‘memristive’ effect – where the memory element’s behaviour is dependent on its past experiences,” explained Sharath Sriram, who led the project at the Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.

“The structure we developed could be used for a range of electronic applications – from ultrafast memory devices that can be shrunk down to a few nanometers, to computer logic architectures that replicate the versatility and response time of a biological neural network. “

The researchers hope the material could lead to the development of memristors, which are widely believed to eventually be the replacement for existing hard drive technologies including Flash, SSD and DRAM. Memristors have the potential to be fashioned into non-volatile solid-state memory and offer building blocks for computing that could be trained to mimic synaptic interfaces in the human brain.            

“With flash memory rapidly approaching fundamental scaling limits, we need novel materials and architectures for creating the next generation of non-volatile memory,”  Sriram said.

“While more investigation needs to be done, our work advances the search for next generation memory technology, which can replicate the complex functions of the human neural system – bringing us one step closer to the bionic brain.”  

The study conducted jointly by the RMTI researchers and Professor Dmitri Strukov from the University of California, Santa Barbara, was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant. The results will be published in the upcoming issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

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