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Japanese Scientists Create RAM Storage Based on Light

By - Source: Nature Photonics | B 26 comments

NTT Labs has succeeded in building a prototype of what the company calls optical random access memory, or short o-RAM.

The idea is to remove the bottleneck between fiber optics and electronic circuits and create a light-speed version of today's DRAM architecture for high-speed data center applications.

According to a research paper published in Nature Photonics, the prototype has a capacity of 4 bits and transfers data at 40 Gbps. It features extremely low power consumption at just 30 nW. While it is far from a commercial product, the researchers believe that it is a foundation for the development of far more capable o-RAM devices with a storage capacity in the range of Kb or Mb. The NTT researchers believe that a 100 Kb o-Ram for all optical network routers device could be built by 2020. A 1 Mb o-RAM chip could be available by 2025.

Each memory cell of the new technology is a nano-photonic crystal that ismade from indium phosphide that integrates a small strip of gallium arsenide phosphide. The flow of laser light is controlled via tiny holes on the outer portion of the cell, while a path in the middle of the crystal was created to allow light to enter and exit the device. Each cell can represent the values 1 or 0 by either transmitting light or blocking it by changing the refraction index of the material. Once a value is set, background light sourced from a laser maintains the refraction index.

The approach apparently enabled the scientists to store data for up to 10 seconds, which is up from 250 nanoseconds in previous similar devices.

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  • 6 Hide
    yumri , March 4, 2012 3:30 PM
    this is a good advancement but needs to be alot bigger at least 64K - 128MB for a router in a optical network. I am glad to see this is being done and really hope the bandwidth gets bigger and the time which data can be stored gets longer as 10 seconds would mean alot of ARP calls throughout the network which were not there with electronic RAM and thus more overhead even though it is faster.
  • Display all 26 comments.
  • 8 Hide
    yumri , March 4, 2012 3:33 PM
    also @victorous 3930K this is NOT for your PC this is for network equipment which typically use high speed 64K chips at most they are 128K chips so yeah we might have a 1TB hard drive but that would be total overkill for a piece of equipment in the target market for the light RAM.
    Also Light based computers failed in the consumer market because they were not cheap enough and were not that practical for the consumer.
  • 9 Hide
    kcorp2003 , March 4, 2012 3:49 PM
    I wonder how IBM is getting along with their light based CPU.
  • 10 Hide
    victorious 3930k , March 4, 2012 3:52 PM
    Oh, sorry, my mistake.
  • 5 Hide
    Sourav_ExploringPC , March 4, 2012 4:17 PM
    Holy crap this is amazing news! :D  :D  :D 
  • 4 Hide
    hannibal , March 4, 2012 5:02 PM
    Well, well data crystals :-)
  • 5 Hide
    upgrade_1977 , March 4, 2012 5:59 PM
    Always wondered where do they come up with the dates? With the current advancement in electronics i'm sure someone will come up with a 1gb ver. in a few years..
  • -7 Hide
    sanadanosa , March 4, 2012 6:53 PM
    Asians
  • -2 Hide
    A Bad Day , March 4, 2012 7:24 PM
    victorious 3930kBy then 1TB+ RAM will be standard. Who cares if it's deadly fast if it can't run their apps!


    Look pal, there's a reason why DRAM is never used as a cache for processors, or why processors even have cache. DRAM's latency is way too high for such high CPU performance, especially if you have the DRAM located a few centimeters away from the CPU.

    I don't care about your hexacore 6 GHz processor if it doesn't have enough cache or none at all, because it's going to spend almost all of its cycles on waiting for the DRAM to respond and end up being a really hot .1 GHz processor.
  • 3 Hide
    jaquith , March 4, 2012 7:34 PM
    Original full story -> http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/03/ntt-optical-memory/

    Who knows, maybe they'll adapt it for HAL ;) 
  • 4 Hide
    dick0 , March 4, 2012 7:51 PM
    'The approach apparently enabled the scientists to store data for up to 10 seconds, which is up from 250 nanoseconds in previous similar devices.'

    are you sure about the 10 seconds?? thought I read a post somewhere last week theat said 10 ms.
  • 3 Hide
    JeTJL , March 4, 2012 9:41 PM
    5 year wait for this to be in the Server Market, $1000;
    additional 3 year wait for this to be in the consumer market ,$100;
    a chance to own your own son in a ultra realistic video game because you have better frame rates than him with light based ram, Priceless.
  • 3 Hide
    nforce4max , March 4, 2012 9:57 PM
    I wouldn't be surprised some government lab has been sitting on this type of tech for decades with working samples.
  • 4 Hide
    A Bad Day , March 4, 2012 10:02 PM
    nforce4maxI wouldn't be surprised some government lab has been sitting on this type of tech for decades with working samples.


    Or if a patent troll sat on a patent that vaguely mentions o-RAM, and proceeds to file lawsuit against every tech company that dare to use it...
  • 1 Hide
    anti-painkilla , March 5, 2012 1:19 AM
    A Bad DayLook pal, there's a reason why DRAM is never used as a cache for processors, or why processors even have cache. DRAM's latency is way too high for such high CPU performance, especially if you have the DRAM located a few centimeters away from the CPU.I don't care about your hexacore 6 GHz processor if it doesn't have enough cache or none at all, because it's going to spend almost all of its cycles on waiting for the DRAM to respond and end up being a really hot .1 GHz processor.


    He apologised before you posted this. Just fyi.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , March 5, 2012 3:14 AM
    A Bad DayLook pal, there's a reason why DRAM is never used as a cache for processors, or why processors even have cache. DRAM's latency is way too high for such high CPU performance, especially if you have the DRAM located a few centimeters away from the CPU.I don't care about your hexacore 6 GHz processor if it doesn't have enough cache or none at all, because it's going to spend almost all of its cycles on waiting for the DRAM to respond and end up being a really hot .1 GHz processor.


    Actually, several processors use DRAM as a cache. It is MUCH faster than the DRAM used in system memory, but it is still DRAM. It's called eDRAM, embedded DRAM. I think that the Xenon and Cell processors use it, among others. It is used for higher capacity caches (it is about five times denser than usual SRAM, or something like that) than SRAM, but somewhat slower. It makes a great L3 cache with SRAM L1 and L2 caches.

    eDRAM isn't as dense as system DRAM, but it is still the same tech, but using a different process. System DRAM uses a different, higher performance process than CPUs and CPU cache usually do.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , March 5, 2012 5:01 AM
    Spam post alert. Yet another for avufo . info/g . gif
  • 0 Hide
    xtreme5 , March 5, 2012 6:48 AM
    this mean that memory will be stored in light rays??
  • -1 Hide
    fuzznarf , March 5, 2012 1:29 PM
    Will it run Crysis?! lol j/k
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