Technology Review – Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and one of the largest manufacturers of computer memory, Samsung, have created a new kind of flash memory that uses graphene—atom-thick sheets of pure carbon—along with silicon to store information. Incorporating graphene could help extend the viability of flash memory technology for years to come, and allow future portable electronics to store far more data.
“We’re not totally replacing silicon but using graphene as the storage layer,” says Augustin Hong, who worked on the devices at UCLA and is now a research staff member at IBM’s Watson Research Center. “We’re using graphene to help extend the capabilities of the conventional technology.”
Graphene’s single atomic layer of sp2 carbon has recently garnered much attention for its potential use in electronic applications. Here, we report a memory application for graphene, which we call graphene flash memory (GFM). GFM has the potential to exceed the performance of current flash memory technology by utilizing the intrinsic properties of graphene, such as high density of states, high work function, and low dimensionality. To this end, we have grown large-area graphene sheets by chemical vapor deposition and integrated them into a floating gate structure. Additionally, simulations suggest that GFM suffers very little from cell-to-cell interference, potentially enabling scaling down far beyond current state-of-the-art flash memory devices.
“Their simulation results suggest that graphene-made devices can be scaled down to about ten nanometers,” says Barbaros Özyilmaz, assistant professor of physics at the National University of Singapore, who was not involved with the research. Conventional flash is expected to become unstable below about 22 nanometers.
Wang says that in theory, it should not be difficult to add graphene to chips, because the material is relatively stable and can be grown on wafers using processes that are already common in chip manufacturing plants