March 29, 2012 – Rice University is developing transparent, flexible memory devices based on silicon oxide, enabling future consumer applications with flexible touchscreens, transparent batteries, see-through ICs, and more.
The SiO2 memory component is based on a 2010 discovery that standard insulator silicon oxide would turn into nonvolatile memory (NVM) when acted upon by a strong charge. Pushing a strong charge through standard silicon oxide forms channels of pure silicon crystals <5nm wide. The initial voltage strips oxygen atoms from the silicon oxide; lesser charges then repeatedly break and reconnect the circuit. A smaller signal can be used to poll the memory state without altering it. The Rice lab has since developed a working two-terminal memory device that can be stacked in a 3D configuration and attached to a flexible substrate.
Rice University’s T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry, James Tour, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science, explains that the transparency is not possible with standard silicon. "Generally, you can’t see a bit of memory, because it’s too small, but silicon itself is not transparent."
Details of the Rice breakthrough will be published in an upcoming paper.
Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Learn more at http://www.rice.edu.