The Data Systems Storage Center, in conjunction with the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering recently hosted the 16th Annual IEEE Non-volatile Memory Technology Symposium (NVMTS) at Carnegie Mellon University.

The NVMTS is an international forum for exchanging information on technological advances in non-volatile memory among researchers from both academia and industry. Professors Jimmy Zhu (ECE) and Vincent Sokalski (MSE) organized the event, which included presentations on the most pressing topics underpinning modern computer memory technology.  

Non-volatile memory, which refers to computer memory that retains information without a power source, holds great promise for future high-performance, energy-efficient computing. For example, it has the potential to drastically reduce the energy consumed by super computers, which could enable the widespread use of these machines. Non-volatile memory also has energy-saving applications for very small devices such as wearable or implantable technology, which could further extend their health monitoring capabilities.

Currently, these devices use volatile memory. This means that most of the energy expended by the devices is necessary simply to preserve information loaded in their memory—not to actually perform tasks or record new information. If these devices were to one day use non-volatile memory, energy would not be wasted on retaining information when the device’s computer is sitting idle. Also, if the power is turned off or temporarily lost, the computer can be restarted without requiring any significant startup time or energy expenditure to reload lost information.   

Non-volatile memory still faces significant technological challenges, and researchers such as those at the NVMTS are working together to come up with new solutions to push this field forward. Non-volatile memory is currently too slow and requires too much energy to make its way into mainstream computers or other electronic devices (such as smartphones).

To make the technology more feasible, researchers right here at Carnegie Mellon and across the globe are working together to discover new materials or schemes to improve the speed and efficiency of non-volatile memory.