No more thumb twiddling as you wait for the computer to start
computers that could instantly switch on at the desktop mode without the time-consuming process of booting, may
now be possible.
Researchers have induced a property in silicon--the main component of integrated circuits--that can help computers remember their last state
even after power is turned off.
Data is primarily stored in the hard disk of a computer. The mother board, made of silicon chips, is the computer's brain but it lacks permanent
storage memory which the hard disk makes up for. When the computer is switched off the mother board loses the data to the hard disk. When the
device is switched on, the delay caused by the recall of data from the hard disk to the mother board is the time the computer actually takes to
boot or start. This ritual also consumes electricity.
Researchers from American Universities of Cornell, Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania and the National Institute of Standard Technology, usa, came together to give the mother board its own memory by introducing a thin film of the compound called strontium
titanate onto pure silicon crystals.
The breakthrough came about with researcher Hao Li of Motorola, Inc., who succeeded in depositing strontium titanate directly onto the silicon
chip. This is difficult as silicon is highly reactive to oxidation and the crystal spacing of the two materials does not normally match.
Using sophisticated techniques, Li developed a method of depositing the strontium titanate, gradually building up layers that were only a few
molecules thick. The result, X-ray data showed, was that the silicon atoms literally squeezed the cubic strontium-titanate crystal to make it fit in,
distorting it into an oblong shape. That distortion creates a structural instability in the film that makes the compound ferroelectric.
"This new material gives silicon a kind of an electrical property--the ferroelectric property--which will help it store data in the chips itself. When
the computer is switched on, the data will directly reach the desktop without the step of rebooting," said Jaijit Bhattacharya, Sun Microsystems
India. This would save time and electricity, he added.
Although such chips will be very expensive, the team hopes the application will outweigh its costs.
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