Sandwich promises cheap storage

April 9/16, 2003

University of California at Los Angeles researchers have used a simple, inexpensive manufacturing technique to fabricate tiny sandwiches of organic material and metal that can be used as electrical switches.

The simple manufacturing process is in contrast to today's silicon-based electronics, which require expensive facilities like cleanrooms. The UCLA devices could eventually be used as digital memory and switches in very low-cost electronics.

The devices leverage a recently discovered phenomenon. An ultrathin metal layer embedded between two organic layers has two states -- a high-conductance state that lets electricity flow easily, and a low-conductance state. The device can be switched from one state to the other via a pulse of electricity. The states are stable, and can represent the 1s and 0s of computer information.

The areas that undergo switching are about 10 nanometers in diameter -- the size of a row of 100 hydrogen atoms. The researchers are still determining how closely the switches can be packed, but estimate that they will be able to store information in areas as small as those in current storage devices.

The method could yield cheap, practical storage media in two years, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the March 3, 2003 issue of Applied Physics Letters.

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