Breakthrough in RRAM technology could lead to hard drives the size of a postage stamp

rram breakthrough throws crossbar across ssd competitors crossbar3
Everyone knows that solid state drives are quick, but capacity remains a major concern. Intel and Samsung have tackled the problem with a technology called 3D NAND which builds upon existing SSD technology by adding more planes to each memory chip’s die. The new Samsung 850 Evo drives, which can achieve a capacity of 120GB on a piece of hardware barely larger than a thumb drive, have proven 3D NAND can produce results.

But it’s not the only game in town. Crossbar, a hardware startup founded in 2010, has been pouring time and money into an alternative called resistive random access memory, or RRAM. This is a “non-volatile” form of random access memory, which means it retains information without an electrical current applied (the DDR-RAM in your PC forgets all its data when your computer is powered off).

Crossbar’s approach involves RRAM stacked into a cube-like structure that expands in three dimensions, making capacities of up to one terabyte theoretically possible on a single chip. Sounds great, right? Just one problem; placing so much memory so close normally results in current leakage, which can increase power consumption at best and make a drive useless at worse. Or, to use Crossbar’s own words, “multiple parallel conduction paths introduce leakage currents that limit the maximum array size and increase power consumption.”

crossbarram1

This debilitating limitation could put Crossbar out to pasture,  but its engineers say they have found a solution called “1 Transistor Driving n Resistive memory cell,” or 1TnR, which ties up to 2,000 memory cells to a single transistor. With this design in place the company has been able to avoid current leakage, which means high-capacity drives are a more practical possibility. The design can also endure up to 100 million usage cycles and switch between on and off states within 50 nanoseconds, traits that make the technology more than durable enough for consumers.

In practical terms, Crossbar’s RRAM breakthrough means it’ll be able to cram extremely large amounts of solid state storage into a space the size of a postage stamp. That’s even smaller than Samsung’s V-NAND and Intel’s upcoming 3D NAND can manage. Imagine, for example, an 11-inch Chromebook with a terabyte of storage.

You’ll have to imagine for awhile longer, though, because the technology won’t hit retail products until late 2015 at the earliest. A 2016 arrival is more likely, and the manufacturers that are interested in Crossbar remain unknown. The company isn’t saying who its early “alpha customers” are. There are still several hurdles in the path of this new storage technology but, if successful, it could generate a rapid and much-needed advance in storage capacity.

Emerging Tech

‘Bionic mushroom’ can generate electricity without using fossil fuels

Researchers have come up with a way to produce electricity without fossil fuels using mushrooms covered with bacteria. The mushroom provides a safe environment for special cyanobacteria that generate electricity when light is shone on them.
Mobile

Upcoming Galaxy S10 may support 8K video and have Neural Processing Unit

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Computing

Having enough RAM is important, but stick to these guidelines to save some money

Although not quite as exciting as processors and graphics cards, RAM is one of the most important parts of your PC. Not having enough can hurt performance. So, how much RAM do you need?
Computing

Get up to $200 off the MacBook Pro in Best Buy’s Black Friday sale right now

If you don't need Apple's controversial Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro, Best Buy is offering a Black Friday sale on the non-Touch Bar models. The sale is happening right now and subtracts as much as $200 off of Apple's notebooks.
Computing

Great PC speakers don't need to break the bank. These are our favorites

Not sure which PC speakers work best with your computer? Here are the best computer speakers on the market, whether you're working with a tight budget or looking to rattle your workstation with top-of-the-line audio components.
Computing

Printing to PDF in Windows is easy, no matter which method you use

Microsoft's latest operating system makes it easier than ever to print to PDF in Windows, but there are alternative methods for doing so, even if you want to forgo Adobe Acrobat. Here's how.
Computing

These are the 5 best free antivirus apps to protect your MacBook

Malware protection is more important than ever, even if you eschew Windows in favor of Apple's desktop platform. Thankfully, protecting your machine is as easy as picking from the best free antivirus apps for Mac suites.
Computing

These laptop bags will keep your notebook secure wherever you go

Choosing the right laptop bag is no easy feat -- after all, no one likes to second-guess themselves. Here are some of the best laptop bags on the market, from backpacks to sleeves, so you can get it right the first time around.
Computing

These Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts will update your OG Windows skills

Windows 10 has many new features, and they come flanked with useful new keyboard shortcuts. Check out some of the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts to improve your user experience.
Computing

Protecting your PDF with a password isn't difficult. Just follow these steps

If you need to learn how to password protect a PDF, you have come to the right place. This guide will walk you through the process of protecting your documents step-by-step, whether you're running a MacOS or Windows machine.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Computing

Here’s how to install Windows on a Chromebook

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so, just in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only…
Deals

Black Friday 2018: The best deals so far

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.
Apple

iPhone users are finding themselves randomly locked out of their Apple ID

According to posts on Reddit and Twitter, it looks like users on Reddit and Twitter having some issues with their Apple accounts. Specifically, it seems as though users are getting randomly locked out of their Apple IDs.