Lancaster University invents universal memory technology
Invented by Physics Professor Manus Hayne (pictured) ULTRARAM is a novel type of memory that combines the non-volatility of a data storage memory, like flash, with the speed, energy-efficiency and endurance of a working memory, like DRAM.
To do this it exploits quantum resonant tunnelling in compound semiconductors, materials commonly used in photonic devices such as LEDS, laser diodes and infrared detectors, but not in digital electronics, which is the preserve of silicon.
A research paper published in Advanced Electronic Material reports that “ULTRARAM breaks this paradigm via the exploitation of InAs quantum wells (QWs) and AlSb barriers to create a triple-barrier resonant-tunnelling (TBRT) structure.
The 2.1 eV conduction band offset of AlSb with respect to the InAs that forms the floating gate (FG) and channel, provides a barrier to the passage of electrons that is comparable to the SiO2 dielectric used in flash. However, the inclusion of two InAs quantum wells (of different thicknesses) within the TBRT structure, allows it to become transparent to electrons when a low voltage (≈2.5 V) is applied.
Initially patented in the US, further patents on the technology are currently being progressed in key technology markets around the world.
ULTRARAM is to be commercialised following the successful completion of the ICURe Explore award as part of the prestigious Innovate UK ICURe Programme designed to help researchers explore the commercial application and potential of UK research.
The ULTRARAM team was awarded an ICURe Exploit award at an event in Glasgow which marked the culmination of various rounds of selection, from being proposed by the University and accepted onto the ICURe programme and then being selected as a result of the ‘Options Roundabout’.
Jess Wenmouth, Commercialisation Impact Manager at the University said: “The process is a strenuous validation programme of both the scientific development, the market discovery and evidence gathering of need as well as an endorsement of the team’s skills and strengths to take this forward.”
Following this endorsement by the ICURe expert innovation panel, the proposal will develop to become a formal spinout company from Lancaster University, with discussions already taking place with potential investors.
The panel felt the key areas of strength for the project included a clear global opportunity with potentially market-changing technology and huge market potential.
The award also opens the door for the spinout to bid for £300k of Innovate UK funding, exclusively available to successful ICURe ‘graduates’.
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