When it comes to data storage, we want it faster, smaller, and more efficient. While flash memory has given us those, compared to hard disks, it has its limits, so researchers are looking to new types of memory. One of these is phase-change memory, and, as reported by the American Institute of Physics, Chinese researchers have discovered a new material that should make the technology easier to work with.
Phase-change memory (PCM) requires a material that can be switched from a resistant amorphous state to a conducting crystalline state, and back, using an electrical pulse. These different electrical states can thus be mapped to the 0 and 1 values we use to store data. One material capable of this switching is an alloy compromised of germanium, antimony, and tellurium, but such ternary alloys are difficult to work with. The researchers however have found that a combination of aluminum and antimony, with fifty atoms of each element, is not only stable enough for use in PCM, but also has three electrical states, which means it can be used for multilevel data storage.
With as much promise as this alloy has, more testing is required to determine if it is suitable for use in phase-change memory. Currently the researchers are testing how well it stands up to being switched back and both between its phases.