IBM's new technology could speed up smartphones

Optical storage technology could be an alternative for RAM and flash storage in smartphones

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IBM's new technology could speed up smartphones IBM demonstrated its development at the IEEE International Memory Workshop in Paris, where it showed how to store PCM data on a Blu-ray disc (Getty Images)
By  Aasha Bodhani Published  May 18, 2016

IBM Research has developed an optical storage technology that may replace RAM and flash storage in smartphones, which could ultimately speed them up.

According to IBM, flash storage is too slow for a smartphone's main memory and RAM is expensive and volatile, however optical storage technology could change this.

The technology, dubbed Phase-Change Memory (PCM) is a type of non-volatile optical storage which works by manipulating the behaviour of chalcogenide glass, this has been used in optical discs for many years. Despite its popular use in the years, it has been considered too expensive to use in smartphones, up until now.

IBM demonstrated its development at the IEEE International Memory Workshop in Paris, where it showed how to store PCM data on a Blu-ray disc.

An electrical current is applied to amorphous (non-crystalline) glass materials, transforming them into a more crystalline structure. This enables storage of 0s and 1s in either state while the application of low voltage can read the data back.

IBM Research said: "PCM materials exhibit two stable states, the amorphous (without a clearly defined structure) and crystalline (with structure) phases, of low and high electrical conductivity, respectively. To store a '0' or a '1', known as bits, on a PCM cell, a high or medium electrical current is applied to the material. A '0' can be programmed to be written in the amorphous phase or a '1' in the crystalline phase, or vice versa. Then to read the bit back, a low voltage is applied. This is how re-writable Blue-ray Discs videos."

The research is still in its initial stages, but IBM believes this technology could potentially speed up smartphones.

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