25 January 2011—A new approach to flash memory [PDF], the solid-state storage technology behind smartphones and USB thumb drives, promises to open the door to a smarter generation of low-power devices—even ones without batteries. The trick, say researchers, is to know when not to read the flippin’ manual.
The problem is that flash memory, which was first developed when the plugged-in desktop computer was king, needs more electricity for writing than tiny batteries may be able to provide. Minimum flash memory requirements range from 2.2 to 4.5 volts today. But low-power microprocessors, such as Texas Instruments’ embedded systems workhorse MSP430, run on as little as 1.8 volts.