We’re getting pretty damn good at this whole technology thing. In fact, we’re about to replace the solid state drive with a light-based memory chip.
Say hello to the first optical-only chip that can permanently store data. Yep, that’s a big deal. Colliding electrons generate heat and resistance that speed-limit electronic chips that non-volatile flash memory relies on. Light-based circuits, however, don’t have to worry about that and a team from Oxford and the Karlsruhe Institute in Germany have managed to solve the only problem that light-based circuits pose by using DVDs.
GST is a structure-changing alloy made from germanium, terllurium and antimony. When hit by a laser the material can rewrite data on CDs and DVDs. The two teams built a chip that directs light through channels etched into a silicon-nitride material using something called waveguide technology. This particular chip is coated with nanoscale GST and blasted by a high-intensity laser. Paying attention? If so then you recall that the GST will change structure. the original structure is crystalline, but laser changes it into an amorphous blob. This blob is detected by a low-intensity laser and read out as data. Hit it with a high-intensity laser again and the GST returns to its original crystalline structure and you’ve got yourself a radical rewritable device.
So when are we getting super fast computers? Hold your horses, cowboy. This is great news, but it’s still in the early stages. The chip needs to be waaaaaay smaller first. How much smaller? How about we scale it down a few hundred times and then we’ll start talking. The good news is that the prototype is on par with its electronic counterpart in terms of speed and power consumption. When this baby gets set up properly we’ll have computers that are a solid 100 times faster than the one you’re probably reading this on.