Traditionally, computers have been limited in their information processing capabilities to how much RAM or Random Access Memory they had stuffed inside them, a bank of reusable memory that allowed computers to store and process information temporarily until the CPU could access and process the information.
An article published by VancouverIslandCTVNews reported that a Vancouver Island chemist has patented a material which acts as a molecular storage bank for information, changing magnetic properties when exposed to laser light. The patent press release can be viewed here
By using this material, The Canadian University of Victoria (UVic) estimates cutting as much as 10% of the world’s energy use for information communication. Information communication accounts for an estimated 10% of the world’s power consumption, a significant impact for the emerging disruptive technology called Li-RAM on both the environment and computing efficiency alike.
What is Li-RAM?
Li-RAM is short for Light induced-Random Access Memory. The material was discovered by Natia Frank, a materials chemist at UVic. By channeling light instead of electricity, Li-RAM boasts cooler operation, lower power consumption, and faster processing speeds than traditional RAM.
The material was discovered as a result of a project to overcome the power limitations of traditional RAM, known as “The Power Wall”, a factor that has limited progression of classical computing over the last few years.
RAM still keeps up with Moore’s Law in terms of cost effectiveness, barring environmental and human error in the supply chain. However, the “Power Wall” has limited further progression in terms of efficiency.
How does Li-RAM work?
Li-RAM is a new material that becomes megnetoresistant when exposed to light, effectively allowing molecules to be organized into data patterns, a much more efficient process in terms of power and capacity than its classic RAM counterpart.
Li-RAM is used to organize molecules by changing their magnetic states through the introduction of light. By using a material that functions with light instead of electricity, the odds of overheating decrease significantly.
What will it be included in?
Because Li-RAM changes so many facets of computing, it is expected to be incorporated into most personal computers, mobile devices, and other similar computing equipment. By introducing Li-RAM into these niches, power usage, heat production, and device size can be expected to continue shrinking.
Because Li-RAM allows data to be stored at the molecular level, it has the potential to become “universal memory”. Until now, universal memory was a hypothetical form of memory which takes the most useful parts of common memory and combines them. Read and write cycle survivability, speed, and storage permanence. These factors have previously required different types of memory altogether.
From consumer-grade electronics and gaming systems to enterprise-ready computing and security systems, Li-RAM is likely to disrupt the computing scene. Natia Frank is working with international electronics manufacturers to ensure that the technology is optimized and ready for market. Commercialization is expected within the next ten years, according to the UVic press release.