New memory chips one hundred times faster than SSD…

Solid state drives mark a huge step up from hard disk drives in terms of reliability and read/write speeds, but are they the future? Using memory chips to store data still limits the speed of information throughput. What would happen though if memory chips used light? Photonic chips have been under development for some time but have proved volatile. Their unreliability has kept them away from commercial use. Essentially they need a continuous supply of electricity which simply isn’t practical!

However, the same technology that brought us CDs and DVDs has been further developed to overcome this problem. This breakthrough replaces electricity with light to move information around. This new concept uses waveguide technology to ensure lasers and memory work in synergy. If this is the future, it will do away with binary electronic storage, with up to 8 bits of data available in a single location! This is achieved by varying the intensity and wavelength of the lasers.

Photonic memory chips would revolutionise data storage, but there are still some issues. Whilst they match NAND chips for power consumption, photonic memory chips are enormous and simply not practical for the high capacities we see in today’s personal devices. However the technology could be used to enhance the performance of data centres where size is not an issue. Being compatible with existing optical fibres, it could expand the applications offered by cloud computing. We still have a long way to go before photonic memory chips catch on, but the future looks promising!