Nano-scale thin film structure mimics brain cells

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RMIT University researchers have mimicked brain cells to create the foundations of highly stable and reliable nanoscale memory devices.

The pioneering work could see ultra-fast, nanoscale data storage in the near future, and will feature on a forthcoming cover of prestigious materials science journal Advanced Functional Materials (11 November).

The RMIT Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group created a nanometer-thin stacked structure using thin film, a functional oxide material more than 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.

Project leader Dr Sharath Sriram says the thin film is specifically designed to have defects in its chemistry to demonstrate a ‘memristive’ effect, where the memory element’s behaviour is dependent on its past experiences.

“With flash memory rapidly approaching fundamental scaling limits, we need novel materials and architectures for creating the next generation of non-volatile memory,” Dr Sriram explained.

“The structure we developed could be used for a range of electronic applications – from ultrafast memory devices that can be shrunk down to a few nanometers, to computer logic architectures that replicate the versatility and response time of a biological neural network.

The research relies on memristors, which can be made into non-volatile solid-state memory and offer building blocks for computing that could be trained to mimic synaptic interfaces in the human brain.