February 29, 2024

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HKU team co-develops new data storage method

The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques is changing the world dramatically with novel applications such as the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, real-time imaging processing and big data analytics in healthcare.

In 2020, the global data volume is estimated to reach 44 Zettabytes and will continue to grow beyond the current capacity of computing and storage devices. At the same time, the related electricity consumption will increase 15 times by 2030, swallowing 8% of the global energy demand. Therefore, the need to reduce energy consumption and increase the speed of information storage technology is urgent.

Berkeley researchers led by the HKU President (when he was in Berkeley), in collaboration with a team at Stanford University, announced that they have invented a new data storage method: They make odd-numbered layers slide relative to even-number layers in tungsten ditelluride, which is only 3nm thick. The arrangement of these atomic layers represents 0 and 1 for data storage.

The researchers creatively make use of quantum geometry: Berry curvature, to read information out. Therefore, this material platform works ideally for memory, with independent ‘write’ and ‘read’ operation. The energy consumption using this novel data storage method can be over 100 times less than the traditional method.

This work is a conceptual innovation for non-volatile storage types and can potentially bring technological revolution. For the first time, the researchers prove that two-dimensional semi-metals, going beyond traditional silicon material, can be used for information storage and reading. The team’s work was published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Physics.

Compared with the existing non-volatile (NVW) memory, this new material platform is expected to increase storage speed by two orders and decrease energy cost by three orders, and it can greatly facilitate the realization of emerging in-memory computing and neural network computing.

The research was inspired by the research of the HKU Professor’s team on “Structural phase transition of single-layer MoTe2 driven by electrostatic doping”, published in Nature in 2017;  and the lead of the Stanford team’s Lab research on “Use of light to control the switch of material properties in topological materials”, published in Nature in 2019.

Previously, researchers found that in the two-dimensional material-tungsten ditelluride, when the material is in a topological state, the special arrangement of atoms in these layers can produce so-called “Weyl nodes”, which will exhibit unique electronic properties, such as zero resistance conduction. These points are considered to have wormhole-like characteristics, where electrons tunnel between opposite surfaces of the material.

In previous experiments, the researchers found that the material structure can be adjusted by terahertz radiation pulse, thereby quickly switching between the topological and non-topological states of the material, effectively turning the zero-resistance state off and then on again.

The team led by the HKU President has proved that the atomic-level thickness of two-dimensional materials greatly reduces the screening effect of the electric field, and its structure is easily affected by the electron concentration or electric field. Therefore, topological materials at the two-dimensional limit can allow the turning of optical manipulation into electrical control, paving towards electronic devices.

In this work, the researchers stacked three atomic layers of tungsten ditelluride metal layers, like a nanoscale deck of cards. By injecting a small number of carriers into the stack or applying a vertical electric field, they caused each odd-numbered layer to slide laterally relative to the even-numbered layers above and below it. Through the corresponding optical and electrical characterizations, they observed that this slip is permanent until another electrical excitation triggers layers to rearrange. Furthermore, to read the data and information stored between these moving atomic layers, the researchers used the extremely large “Berry curvature” in the semi-metallic material. This quantum characteristic is like a magnetic field, which can steer electrons’ propagation and result in nonlinear Hall effect. Through such an effect, the arrangement of the atomic layer can be read without disturbing the stacking.

Using this quantum characteristic, different stacks and metal polarization states can be distinguished well. This discovery solves the long-term reading difficulty in ferroelectric metals due to their weak polarization. This makes ferroelectric metals not only interesting in basic physical exploration but also proves that such materials may have applicational prospects comparable to conventional semiconductors and ferroelectric insulators. Changing the stacking orders only involves the breaking of the Van der Waals bond.

Therefore, the energy consumption is theoretically two orders of magnitude lower than the energy consumed by breaking the covalent bond in traditional phase change materials and provides a new platform for the development of more energy-efficient storage devices and helps us move towards a sustainable and smart future.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

PARTNER

CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

PARTNER

HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

PARTNER

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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