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Next generation computer memories 2013 using light to store data

PI: Harish Bhaskaran

Department: Materials

Prof Bhaskaran is the PI of the EPSRC Funded WAFT Collaboration (£3.1 Million), which also includes co-investigators from the Universities of Southampton and Exeter, as well as 15 industrial partners. In addition, he is also Oxford lead investigator on the £3.1 million CHAMP Partnership (EP/M015130/1), which includes Cambridge, Heriot Watt, Exeter and Southampton, and several industrial partners. Through both of these grants and several other EPSRC projects (including his current manufacturing fellowship), Prof Bhaskaran has developed the world’s first photonic memories, as well as techniques to store multiple bits of data on single memory devices.

Modern computer systems are based on the so-called von Neumann architecture; they separate the operations of processing and memory in both time and space, creating a bottleneck in terms of the overall speed of operation. However, these new photonic devices have been shown to be capable of the first ‘non-von Neumann’ arithmetic, fusing together the two basic tasks of processing and memory in an abacus-like arithmetic calculating unit. This demonstrates the potential for a new class of fast, powerful and efficient general-purpose computers based on photonic devices.

Some basic patent protection has also been sought, however, to create impact of this requires several device iterations and testing of the so-called ‘drift’ effect, a well-known effect that changes the value of a memory. This project will employ a Research Impact Engineer to take the laboratory techniques and develop the entire parameter space that will specifically help translate the group’s research outputs to increase impact of its scientific work, while reducing lead-times for such a technology to be taken seriously in industry.