Smartphones to get novel memory material

Camera phone, Getty The memory reads and writes data faster than existing technologies

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Smartphones could have their battery life extended by up to 20% by changing what type of memory they use.

Samsung has announced plans to produce memory modules built of what is known as a phase change material.

These modules are built of a substance that records or erases data when it is heated and typically use far less power than existing equivalents.

Samsung said modules made of the memory material would roll off its production lines later in 2010.

It plans to produce phase change memory (PCM) chips in the same format as existing designs so they can easily be worked into production runs.

Speed test

The most widely adopted form of PCM is typically made from an alloy of germanium, antimony and tellurium which forms a glass-like material. Heating it by applying a current makes the material turn into two separate forms that exhibit very different resistances to electricity.

As a result, the material can be used to represent the binary 0s and 1s used by computers.

At its mobile technology forum held in Taipei, Samsung announced plans to start producing PCM modules 512megabits (Mbit) in size.

These will be made to be compatible with traditional flash memory modules that have individual components only 40 nanometres wide. In addition, it said, PCM had a simpler structure than older formats so it should be easy to manufacture and start using in phones.

Samsung lab tests suggest that the 512Mbit phase change memory can read and write data up to 10 times faster than some existing flash memory types. Overall, said Samsung, phase change memory is about three times faster than existing flash memory.

While many firms are working on ways to use phase change memory, Samsung is thought to be the first to put it in a package of processors that can be put into phones.

The electronics giant said it eventually expects PCM to replace flash memory in many gadgets.

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