What Decision Makers Need to Know About Energy Consumption and Universal Memory

According to Lancaster University, a new type of computer memory will solve “the digital technology energy crisis” – Universal Memory.

A type of electronic memory device, Universal Memory provides ultra-low energy consumption, which is expected to “reduce peak power consumption” by one-fifth at data centers. Lancaster University says this is especially important as residential energy savings continue to go down due to a boost in end users’ use of computers and mobile devices; “by 2025 a ‘tsunami of data’ is expected to consume a fifth of global electricity.”

While the development of Universal Memory has been challenging, the university says its researchers used quantum mechanics to “solve the dilemma between choosing between stable, long-term data storage and low-energy writing and erasing.” With this issue solved, Universal Memory might be able to replace the $100bn market for Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), which has been used as the current memory of computers and long-term memory of flash drives.

As many decision makers may already know, DRAM has been successfully used for a long time. Writing data to DRAM has traditionally been fast and low-energy; however, its downside is that the data becomes volatile, and needs to be refreshed on a continuous basis to prevent it from being lost. Similarly, while flash has typically stored data well, the process of writing and erasing is slow-going. It also utilizes tons of energy, which deteriorates it, thus making it unfit for long-term memory storage. “This is clearly inconvenient and inefficient,” Lancaster University says.

In their article on Universal Memory, published in Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Lancaster suggest that their solution will pay off in the long run, especially as end users’ and decision makers’ memory needs shift. They also predict that research on memory utilization won’t stop at Universal Memory; it will always be on-going. “Whilst the different forms of conventional (charge-based) memories are well suited to their individual roles in computers and other electronic devices, flaws in their properties mean that intensive research into alternative, or emerging, memories continues.”

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