Work from researchers at IBMs Almaden Research Laboratory suggests that a new type of computer memory storage may be on the horizon. Currently, computer memory comes in one of two flavors: solid state RAM or magnetic hard disk drives, both of which rely on what's effectively two-dimensional storage. The new method adds some useful features to memory storage by extending the physical storage into the third dimension.
Over the past few years, an IBM research team, led by Stuart S. P. Parkin, has been developing a new method for storing information. Called racetrack memory (RM), it relies on U-shaped nanowires that are arranged perpendicular to the surface of a chip and act as a shift register. Bits can be read or written at the base of the wire. Once on the wire, bits can then be moved around as if they're on a memory stack thanks to nanosecond pulses of current applied to the ends of the U that shift all the bits to new locations on the wire. [...]
DW-based bits are accessed using current pulses that exploit the phenomenon of spin-momentum transfer. The current shifts the entire set of bits along the wire, exposing a different DW to the reader and/or writer at the base. The system has some very appealing properties. The cost of storing a single bit is actually reduced as the number of DWs per racetrack increases. The average time needed to read a given bit is also independent of the number of DWs per racetrack—essentially, there's a "the more the merrier" situation when it comes to data density.Thanks to the fact that there are no moving parts, there is also no obvious fatigue or wearout mechanism for RM. [...]
The researchers conclude their article by stating, "the motion of a series of DWs at high speed using nanosecond current pulses not only proves the viability of a shift-register memory but also presages the possibility of current-controlled DW–based logic devices." There is still work to do before an entire three-dimensional memory chip will replace your current memory solutions. The biggest problem may be heat; moving DWs requires a high current, which may destroy the wire or mangle the data it contains. Still, there are some ideas on how to deal with the heat, and this work represents a big step in the direction of a new dimension in memory storage.
This is the first 3d storage idea i've seen that isn't optical. I'm interested to see if it will ever make it to market