Speeding up computer tasks

  • By Nanyang Technological University
  • Posted 7 months ago
  • Reading Time : a few minutes

NTU and German scientists turn memory chips into processors leading to faster and thinner mobile devices and computers

A team of international scientists have found a way to make memory chips perform computing tasks, which is traditionally done by computer processors like those made by Intel and Qualcomm.

This means data could now be processed in the same spot where it is stored, leading to much faster and thinner mobile devices and computers.

This new computing circuit was developed by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) in collaboration with Germany’s RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Juelich, one of the largest interdisciplinary research centres in Europe.

It is built using state-of-the-art memory chips known as Redox-based resistive switching random access memory (ReRAM). Developed by global chipmakers such as SanDisk and Panasonic, this type of chip is one of the fastest memory modules that will soon be available commercially.

However, instead of storing information, NTU Assistant Professor Anupam Chattopadhyay in collaboration with Professor Rainer Waser from RWTH Aachen University and Dr Vikas Rana from Forschungszentrum Juelich showed how ReRAM can also be used to process data.

Current devices and computers have to transfer data from the memory storage to the processor unit for computation, while the new NTU circuit saves time and energy by eliminating these data transfers. It can also boost the speed of current processors found in laptops and mobile devices by at least two times or more.

By making the memory chip perform computing tasks, space can be saved by eliminating the processor, leading to thinner, smaller and lighter electronics. The discovery could also lead to new design possibilities for consumer electronics and wearable technology.

Currently, all computer processors in the market are using the binary system, which is composed of two states – either 0 or 1. However, the prototype ReRAM circuit processes data in four states instead of two.

Because ReRAM uses different electrical resistance to store information, it could be possible to store the data in an even higher number of states, hence speeding up computing tasks beyond current limitations.

The quest for faster processing is one of the most pressing needs for industries worldwide, as computer software is getting increasingly complex while data centres have to deal with more information than ever.

Credit: Nanyang Technological University