First rumors about the demise of flash surfaces as early as 2004 when there was speculation that MRAM, OUM, PRAM or nanocrystal-supported flash would replace flash memory chips beyond the 32 nm scale by 2009.
Despite the fact that flash is still going strong even in 2012, researchers believe they have identified a new technology that will replace flash someday: Transparent, flexible 3D memory chips.
According to James Tour, who presented his work at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, such devices could be folded like a sheet of paper and sustain temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The chips would retain data even when exposed to water and store more data than today's flash chips. Since the new chips store two terminals per bit of information rather than the standard three terminals per bit, they are said to make more sense for 3D memory than flash drives.
"These new chips are really big for the electronics industry because they are now looking for replacements for flash memory," said Tour. "These new memory chips have numerous advantages over the chips today that are workhorses for data storage in hundreds of millions of flash, or thumb drives, smart phones, computers and other products. Flash has about another six or seven years in which it can be built smaller, but then developers hit fundamental barriers."
There are also potential new application areas that is enabled by the transparency of the chips. The researcher said that they could be built into glass, for example. Tour noted that the research team intended to test the chips on board the Russian Progress 44 cargo spacecraft in August 2011. Unfortunately, that spacecraft crashed over Siberia and he now hopes that a future mission scheduled for a July 2012 launch will succeed. The test in space is designed to test how the memory reacts to high radiation exposure.
Tour said that the memory chips are already patented, and Tour is talking to manufacturers about embedding the chips into products. However, there was no information when the technology will be available commercially and when further details about their technical specifications will become available.