Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Getting A Computer To Remember What Was On The Screen When The Power Went Off

April 10, 1997
Sandia National Laboratories
Sandia scientists think they've found a way to remove the computing horror that occurs when the machine freezes up or the power goes but you haven't "saved" your most recent work.

Related Articles

April 10, 1997

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- One of the minor horrors of the computer age is to be working on a document not yet saved to the hard drive “memory” and lose everything because of a power outage or a screen freeze-up that forces the operator to shut down the computer.

Attempts to create circuits that save what’s “up” on a screen have used high voltages, which quickly wears down computer electronic components, and have been expensive.

Now scientists at Sandia National Laboratories and France Telecom have applied for a patent on a prototype memory-retention device that is inexpensive, low-powered, and simple to fabricate.

The device, referred to as “protonic,” is reported in today’s issue of the journal Nature.

To transmit data, the device uses embedded protons, which remain where they are when the power turns off, thus preserving the information. In devices such as D-RAMs (dynamic random access memory), typically based on electron flow, the information is lost when the power is turned off.

To create the memory-retentive chip, only a few steps must be added to the hundreds currently used to fabricate microchips. The key additional step is to bathe the hot microchip in hydrogen gas. The gas, permeating the chip, breaks up into single ions -- i.e., protons -- at defects in the silicon dioxide. (The defects were created by the heat of the manufacturing process.) The protons can roam only within the chip’s central layer of silicon dioxide, where they are trapped by two layers of silicon that sandwich the silicon dioxide.

The Sandia researchers found that:

•A positive low-voltage applied to one side of the silicon repels the protons to the far side of the silicon dioxide.

•A negative low-voltage applied to the silicon attracts the protons to the near side of the silicon dioxide.

If the power is turned off, the protons stay where they are, retaining information in the chip circuit.

Development of the process had its origin on the back of a napkin at an IEEE conference in December 1995 in Charleston, S.C. The discussion, subsequent work, and patent involved Sandians Bill Warren (principal investigator), Karel Vanheusden, Dan Fleetwood, and, at France Telecom, Roderick Devine.

First observation of the effect that protons remain in silicon when it is baked at high temperatures in hydrogen gas came as part of a systematic study at Sandia and France Telecom of the effects of hydrogen on silicon.

“For defense reasons, we’re always interested in radiation-hardened, low-voltage chips,” said Fleetwood.

The work is funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, which funds which finances speculative defense-related research, and the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.

Sandia is a multiprogram DOE laboratory, operated by a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy, and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Technical Visuals: available.
Media contact: Neal Singer, 505-845-7078, [email protected]
Technical contact: Bill Warren, 505--272-7628; [email protected]

Sandia National Laboratories' World Wide Web home page is located at http://www.sandia.gov. News releases, fact sheets, and news tips can be found at http://www.sandia.gov/media/whatnew.htm. The Sandia Lab News Online Edition is at http://www.sandia.gov/LabNews/LabNews.html.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Sandia National Laboratories. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

Sandia National Laboratories. "Getting A Computer To Remember What Was On The Screen When The Power Went Off." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 1997. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/04/970410133342.htm>.
Sandia National Laboratories. (1997, April 10). Getting A Computer To Remember What Was On The Screen When The Power Went Off. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/04/970410133342.htm
Sandia National Laboratories. "Getting A Computer To Remember What Was On The Screen When The Power Went Off." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/04/970410133342.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Computers & Math News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Sony Hack, What's Next?

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 19, 2014) The hacking attack on Sony Pictures has U.S. government officials weighing their response to the cyber-attack. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How 2014 Shaped The Future Of The Internet

How 2014 Shaped The Future Of The Internet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) It has been a long, busy year for Net Neutrality. The stage is set for an expected landmark FCC decision sometime in 2015. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins