IBM is developing a type of memory that it says could one day be faster and more reliable than today's hard drives and flash memory.
Called "racetrack," it is a solid-state memory that aims to combine the best attributes of flash, like having no moving parts, and the low cost of hard drives for an inexpensive form of nonvolatile memory that will be stable and durable, said Stuart Parkin, an IBM Fellow.
Racetrack memory stores information in thousands of atoms in magnetic nanowires. Without the atoms moving, an electrical charge causes data to move swiftly along a U-shaped pipe that allows data to be read and written in less than a nanosecond, Parkin said. A nanosecond is a billionth of a second and commonly used to measure access time to RAM.
The memory reads 16 bits of data through one transistor, so it reads and writes information 100,000 times faster than flash memory, Parkin said.
"In flash memory and hard drives, one transistor can access 1 bit, or with flash, maybe 2 or possibly even 4 bits, that's it. We are going to use... a transistor to access many bits of information."
Racetrack is still in its early days. The concept was proposed four or five years ago, Parkin said, and IBM hopes to be able to provide terabytes worth of storage from such devices in a few years.
"It will take two to four years to build a prototype in which we build these reading-and-writing elements on a nanoscopic scale. In four years we can perhaps demonstrate it works and then manufacture it," Parkin said.
IBM, Racetrack, Memory