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Rice Researchers Develop Graphite-based Memory

A team at Rice University is finding that a strip of graphite only ten atoms thick can serve as the basic element of a new type of memory. Ed Mayberry reports.


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The development could make massive amounts of storage available for computers, handheld media players, cell phones and cameras. Rice professor James Tour says the solid-state device uses super-conducting graphene.

“Yeah, it really is quite amazing. It’s as if we’ve being trying to figure out new materials for years and years, and the pencil we were writing with had all the information in it. It’s the same material that’s in a pencil.”

The strip of graphite is thin.

“Yeah, it’s very thin. It’s about ten atoms thick.”

And there are other advantages.

“Right, so the current type of memory uses three electrodes. It has a three electrode system, which is a source, a drain and a gate wire. This just has a source and a drain, so you can reduce the number of wires from three to two, which is an enormous savings in real estate, when you’re talking about small dimensions.”

Professor Tour says you won’t actually notice much physical difference in your electronic device. It’s just that now, more memory can be stored in the same space.

“Right, it’s the same size holding much more. So right now, a flash stick is about as small as you want it to be. Actually, the flash memory card within that stick you have is so small, if you didn’t put it in the stick, you’d lose it. So what you want to be able to do is have more in that same size. For example, what consumers put into a camera, for example, the same size package, hopefully holding ten times more memory. If the consumer sees no particular change other than they can store a lot more movies and music in the same area, that’s exactly what we want. Other than that, the consumer shouldn’t notice.”

Tour says his team is working on manufacturing techniques and getting the new graphite memory process into market.

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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