Engineers at EPFL Switzerland made a breakthrough in electronics by developing a computer chip that has the capability of logic operations and data storage in one architecture.
The Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES) set the atmosphere for the new discovery, with engineers utilizing the 2D material for logic-in-memory architecture. This same technology will be responsible for combining the two functions, providing energy efficiency to computers.
Technically known as the floating-gate field-effect transistor (FGFET), this chip works like flash memory in SD cards but with additional capabilities.
According to EPFL, this single architecture with the two important functions can provide major benefits for artificial intelligence systems. The current systems that run AI and data storage require the von Neumann architecture—using separate units for data processing and data storage.
Data moving from processing to storage, and back to processing, use more time and energy, as the two units are separate from one another. With EPFL’s 2D material, the chip is made from MoS2, consisting of a single layer three atoms thick.
This material is a semi-conductor and generates floating-gate field-effect transistors. It can hold electric charges for long periods and is actually used for flash memory systems for cameras, mobile phones, and even computers.
What’s unique with the chip is enabling to work as memory storage units and programmable transistors. MoS2 incorporates the valuable processing functions in a single circuit and change as desired.
“This ability for circuits to perform two functions is similar to how the human brain works, where numerous neurons are involved in both storing memories and conducting mental calculations,” said LANES head Andras Kis.
Power and Energy Efficient
The unique circuit design and chip allow for more efficiency in storing and analyzing data. Since the two functions are integrated into one, data can travel faster to memory units and processors. Doing so will cut the amount of time needed for computing operations.
Additionally, it shrinks the space required in one data storage. For smartphone developers, this could mean a valuable chip to use less energy. LANES also mentioned how they added advanced fabrication to the chip to have controlled properties.
While LANES is still figuring out more advancement for the chip, head Kis said this technology can power up smaller devices and scale more applications. It would take less time before the FGFET is integrated and used by a lot of electronics companies worldwide.