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Buckyballs To Boost Flash Memory

Lower power and faster writing from a dash of C-60

3 min read

Want faster flash? Sprinkle in a little carbon. Researchers at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., suggest that a thin layer of buckminsterfullerene (C 60 ), a.k.a. buckyballs, embedded in an ordinary flash-memory cell, can increase how long the memory holds a bit, boost the speed at which a bit is written or erased, and decrease the memory's drain on a battery.

Like ordinary transistors, flash-memory cells are made up of a source, a drain, and a gate, whose voltage controls the flow of current between the two. The gate is separated from the rest of the transistor by a thin layer of insulation, the gate dielectric. The difference in flash is that the cell contains an additional, ”floating” gate embedded within the dielectric. Put enough voltage on the main gate and electrons will jump the dielectric barrier and get stuck inside the floating gate. Reverse the polarity of the voltage and the charges will jump back out. The stuck charge, or its absence, is the stored bit.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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