Researchers at Purdue University have made progress towards an elusive goal: building a transistor that can both process and store information. In the future, a single on-chip component could integrate the processing functions of transistors with the storage capabilities of ferroelectric RAM, potentially creating a process-memory combo that enables faster computing and is just atoms thick.
The ability to cram more functions onto a chip, allowing for greater speed and power without increasing the footprint, is a core goal of electronics design. To get where they are today, engineers at Purdue had to overcome incompatibilities between transistors – the switching and amplification mechanisms used in almost all electronics – and ferroelectric RAM. Ferroelectric RAM is higher-performing memory technology; the material introduces non-volatility, which means it retains information when power is lost, unlike traditional dielectric-layer-constructed DRAM.