So there is a small footnote in the journals this week regarding Phase Change Material based memory that may perhaps be the beginning of a new era in consumer electronics.


Recently a single bit of digital information was stored on just 12 atoms, remarkable as this is it means that we are approaching a practical limit of one atom per bit.


To get around this storage limitation it has been proposed that phase change materials that can switch between an amorphous and a crystalline state be used to switch between many more than just the two binary states. Phase change material (PCM) memory can already write and retrieve data 100 times faster than flash memory that is used in many consumer devices and computers.

Whereas flash memory is generally limited to 3000 read-writes PCM based memory can be used at least 10 million times. Samsung in fact have developed a new 8Gb phase change memory chip recently that is promising a number of new applications and will be released at the ISSCC solid state tech conference in San Francisco this month.


Now a gentleman in Zurich by the name of Evangelos Eleftheriou who works for IBM is proposing that PCM’s true potential lies not in using just its binary state capability with a single bit per cell but to control the current and create states in between fully crystallised and fully amorphous. In fact a researcher at the University of Essex has demonstrated no less than 512 distinct states in a single 20 nanometre cell as used in the Samsung chip.
Obviously this storage tech is a long way from iteration but the industry has a way of incepting useful innovations like this at a rate that even exceeds Moore’s predictions.


The potential for media storage at unprecedented levels of resolution with this type of retrievable capacity at hand is fantastic. Think Star Trek Holo Pit with full interactivity …the ability to for example take a fully interactive tour in real time from a room with screens floor wall and ceiling and visit the world’s most interesting places in real time.

I am reminded of some of Arthur C Clarke’s speculations that seemed thoroughly wild at the time that are now almost amongst us.

Grand fun.