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12/10/2008
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Transparent Memory Chips Promise See-Through Gadgets

Clear, flat-screen televisions represent one such possible device, assuming the research can be applied to other electronic components.

Scientists at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have come up with a way to make clear computer chips.

The technique is described in the research paper "Transparent resistive random access memory and its characteristics for nonvolatile resistive switching," which appeared this week in the American Institute of Physics' Applied Physics Letters. The paper was written by Jung Won Seo, Jae-Woo Park, Keong Su Lim, Ji-Hwan Yang, and Sang Jung Kang.

Transparent resistive random access memory, or TRRAM, "is not intended as a replacement of conventional [silicon-based] memory technology but has potential for novel electronic applications in the near future," the paper states. "Thus, we expect a transparent embedded system with see-through memory to become a paradigm of future electronic devices."

TRRAM is derived from RRAM, a new nonvolatile memory technology being developed by a number of electronics manufacturers as a possible successor to PRAM (Phase-change Random Access Memory) and MRAM (Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory).

Clear, flat-screen televisions represent one such possible device, assuming the research can be applied to other electronic components.

TRRAM can provide nonvolatile memory just like the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) memory chips that are currently used in USB flash drives. According to the paper, TRRAM should be able to store data for 10 years. Recent developments in ferroelectric NAND flash technology promise up to a 100 million read/write cycles.

"It is a new milestone of transparent electronic systems," said researcher Jung Won Seo, in a statement. "By integrating TRRAM device with other transparent electronic components, we can create a total see-through embedded electronic system."

The researchers are also working on TRRAM made with flexible materials.

Seo predicts clear semiconductors could be available in three to four years. He believes that it will be possible to manufacture TRRAM at low cost and that it will not require increasingly expensive rare metals like iridium. Iridium has been trading at around $445 per troy ounce this month, up from around $193 in December 2005.

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