Blast of hot, hot heat can heal flash memory, science proves
3rd Dec 2012 | 14:27
100 million cycles with an 800 degree jolt
Researchers have found that a blast of 800C heat can stop flash memory from wearing out.
Current flash drives tend to burn out after 10,000 cycles of data being written and read, which is a bit of an issue for server farms and other data-heavy computing outlets relying on solid state drives (SSDs) day-in-day-out.
Scientists now reckon that with this toasty blast SSDs can last up to 100 million cycles instead.
A quick heat hit is much easier to apply than baking the chip for hours at 250C in situ, as was the previous "solution".
More than times a thousand
Scientists looked to future memory sources for inspiration, deciding to try a solution used by phase change RAM (PCRAM) which could end up usurping flash memory in the long run.
The Macronix engineers redesigned a flash memory chip with tiny onboard heaters that can use an electric current to generate pulses of heat just a few milliseconds long that have a healing effect on the chip.
Sounds power-hungry, but the scientists argue that because the process can be done just occasionally and bit-by-bit, it can be programmed to heal just when a device is hibernating and connected to a power source.
Basically, as project deputy director at Macronix Hang‑Ting Lue puts it, "It's not going to drain your cellphone battery."
So when will we see this self-healing memory make its way into our handsets and computers? It might not be as far off as it sounds.
"It took a leap of imagination to jump into a completely different regime…very high temperature and in a very short time," says Lue.
"Afterward, we realised that there was no new physics principle invented here, and we could have done this 10 years ago."