Silicon Oxide Forms Memory Pathways Five Nanometers Wide
Typically, as parts get smaller the amount of transistors on each part has doubled. It is a basic principle called Moore's Law and one that has been eating away at engineers lately who keep shrinking the chips in all of our hardware. However, a graduate student at Rice University has demonstrated that strands of silicon oxide, typically an insulator, can form memory pathways a mere five nanometers wide. Researchers at Rice were conducting experiments with graphite and electricity to make 10nm wide memory paths. They would apply some electricity which would break and reform the pathways with silicon oxide as the insulator.
However, graduate student Jun Yao showed that the silicon oxide was the main part as the electrodes would strip off the oxygen and leave behind tiny silicon crystals. These crystals then functioned as a switch that was either on or off depending on the amount of current going through. Now, a five nanometer width is really tiny as it is five billionths of a meter wide. This is a huge breakthrough considering flash memory cannot really get below much more than 20nm and using other conventional means, like the graphite, will only get down to 10nm. What this means for the silicon oxide is that storage solutions using a single chip in five years could be as large in volume as hard drives today. Quite the feat, no?