Researchers at HP Labs and Princeton University have developed a combination of materials that could lead to cheap and super-compact electronic memory devices for archiving digital images or other data.
The invention could result in a single-use memory card that permanently stores data and is faster and easier to use than a compact disk. The card would not involve moving parts such as the laser and motor drive required by CDs.
A paper on the underlying science of the technology, entitled "A polymer/semiconductor write-once read-many-times memory," has been published in the British science journal Nature. The authors of the paper are Sven Moller, a former Princeton University post-doctoral candidate now working at HP; Craig Perlov, Warren Jackson and Carl Taussig of HP Labs in Palo Alto, and Stephen R. Forrest, a professor at Princeton. The work was supported by HP and the National Science Foundation.
The basic material for the technology is an organic material already in use as an anti-static agent in clothes dryer sheets,electronics packaging , in electro-chromic windows, and in displays made with organic light-emitting diodes.
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Organic devices promise to revolutionize the extent of, and access to, electronics by providing extremely inexpensive, lightweight and capable ubiquitous components that are printed onto plastic, glass or metal foils. One key component of an electronic circuit that has thus far received surprisingly little attention is an organic electronic memory. Here we report an architecture for a write-once read-many-times (WORM) memory, based on the hybrid integration of an electrochromic polymer with a thin-film silicon diode deposited onto a flexible metal foil substrate. WORM memories are desirable for ultralow-cost permanent storage of digital images, eliminating the need for slow, bulky and expensive mechanical drives used in conventional magnetic and optical memories. Our results indicate that the hybrid organic/inorganic memory device is a reliable means for achieving rapid, large-scale archival data storage. The WORM memory pixel exploits a mechanism of current-controlled, thermally activated un-doping of a two-component electrochromic conducting polymer.