High-capacity 3D transparent memory a step closer to reality

Rice University researchers led by chemist James Tour have just written a paper in the journal Nature Communications that describes transparent, non-volatile, heat- and radiation-resistant memory chips created in Tour’s lab from silicon oxide sandwiched between electrodes of graphene, the single-atom-thick form of carbon.

More than four years ago, they discovered it was possible to make bits of computer memory from silicon and carbon, but make them much smaller and perhaps better than anything on the market today.

They have now been able to put those test chips onto flexible pieces of plastic, leading to paper-thin, see-through memories they hope can be manufactured with extraordinarily large capacities at a reasonable price.

Imagine heads-up windshields or displays with embedded electronics, or even flexible, transparent cellphones.

“The interest is starting to climb,” said Tour, Rice’s Rice’s T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. “We’re working with several companies that are interested either in getting their chips to do this kind of switching or in the possibility of making radiation-hard devices out of this.”

In fact, samples of the chips have been sent to the International Space Station (ISS), where memories created and programmed at Rice are being evaluated for their ability to withstand radiation in a harsh environment.

“Now, we’ve seen a couple of DARPA announcements asking for proposals for devices based on silicon oxide, the very thing we’ve shown. So there are other people seeing the feasibility of this approach,” Tour said.

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