Washington, DC, 4 May 2012- A collaborative experimental effort with Carnegie researchers has discovered unknown properties of a computer memory material that will allow for faster data transfer with a higher capacity of data stored.

The research focused on a material already in use with rewritable optical media composed of germanium, antimony and tellurium Ge2Sb2Te5. By using diamond anvil cell technology to apply pressure, the team uncovered new electrical resistance characteristics that could make GST even more useful to the computer and electronics industries. The research was carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Jilin University, George Mason University, Beijing University of Technology.

GST is called a phase-change material because, when exposed to heat, GST can change from an amorphous state, in which the atoms lack an ordered arrangement, to a crystalline state, in which the atoms are neatly lined up in a long-range order. In its amorphous state, GST is more resistant to electric current. In its crystalline state, it is less resistant. The two phases also reflect light differently, allowing the surface of a DVD to be read by tiny laser. 

“This phase-change memory is more stable than the material used in the current flash drives. It works 100 times faster and is rewritable about 100,000 times,” said the study’s lead author, Ming Xu, from Johns Hopkins, “Within about five years, it could also be used to replace hard drives in computers and give them more memory.”

The study can be found at: M. Yu et al., Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci.,109, E1055 (2012).

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