Mixing Memory To Speed Solid-State Drives

Korean researchers find that a little ferroelectric RAM goes a long way

2 min read

The pricey MacBook Air you covet, with its small, lightweight, shock-resistant solid-state drive (SSD), may have a secret. Despite their advantages, solid-state drives suffer not just from enormous price tags but also from slow performance during certain key operations. Now Korean engineers report that through a clever mix of two types of memory, they can give solid-state drives a boost without also jacking up their price.

Unlike a traditional hard-disk drive, which can write new data directly over recorded data, the NAND flash memory that makes up solid-state drives requires free memory space in which to write. That's usually not a problem when you have to write large chunks of sequential data, such as a video clip. But it is a problem when you have to make frequent small additions and changes to existing data. If, for instance, you need to update a file, the original data must be copied to a fresh memory block so that the first block can be erased. The new data can then be merged with the original and written back to the first block.

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A Circuit to Boost Battery Life

Digital low-dropout voltage regulators will save time, money, and power

11 min read
Image of a battery held sideways by pliers on each side.
Edmon de Haro

YOU'VE PROBABLY PLAYED hundreds, maybe thousands, of videos on your smartphone. But have you ever thought about what happens when you press “play”?

The instant you touch that little triangle, many things happen at once. In microseconds, idle compute cores on your phone's processor spring to life. As they do so, their voltages and clock frequencies shoot up to ensure that the video decompresses and displays without delay. Meanwhile, other cores, running tasks in the background, throttle down. Charge surges into the active cores' millions of transistors and slows to a trickle in the newly idled ones.

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