The piezoelectric effect is a phenomenon that will create an electric charge when a device is deformed. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created piezoelectrically modulated resistive memory (PRM) devices to link movements in the biological world to electrical signals. Regular transistors have a gate voltage that determines if the device is on or off, but their PRM will not need that external potential, as it can create its own internal voltage. The voltage can be produced by someone signing their name, the movement of a nanorobot, and even the human heart beating.
The switching that voltage incurs is one way, meaning the memory stored in the PRM has sign and magnitude. This allows the information to be read, processed, and stored just as any normal electronic memory available today. With the devices the team built for testing, they demonstrated writing, reading, and erasing information from them.
This advancement represents a step closer to self-powered complete systems. The remaining challenges are to miniaturize the technology to the point it can all be on a single chip.