text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to directorate navigationSkip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation
News
design element
News
News From the Field
For the News Media
Special Reports
Research Overviews
NSF-Wide Investments
Speeches & Lectures
NSF Current Newsletter
Multimedia Gallery
News Archive
News by Research Area
Arctic & Antarctic
Astronomy & Space
Biology
Chemistry & Materials
Computing
Earth & Environment
Education
Engineering
Mathematics
Nanoscience
People & Society
Physics
 

Email this pagePrint this page


Press Release 09-074
"Instant On" Computing

Materials researchers say rebooting soon may be a thing of the past

Illustration showing atomic structure of strontium titanite and silicon.

Ferroelectric materials found in subway smart cards soon may provide instant access to computing.
Credit and Larger Version

April 17, 2009

The ferroelectric materials found in today's "smart cards" used in subway, ATM and fuel cards soon may eliminate the time-consuming booting and rebooting of computer operating systems by providing an "instant-on" capability as well as preventing losses from power outages.

Researchers supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) nanoscale interdisciplinary research team award and three Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers at Cornell University, Penn State University and Northwestern University recently added ferroelectric capability to material used in common computer transistors, a feat scientists tried to achieve for more than half a century. They reported their findings in the April 17 journal Science.

Ferroelectric materials provide low-power, high-efficiency electronic memory. Smart cards use the technology to instantly reveal and update stored information when waved before a reader. A computer with this capability could instantly provide information and other data to the user.

Researchers led by Cornell University materials scientist Darrell Schlom took strontium titanate, a normally non-ferroelectric variant of the ferroelectric material used in smart cards, and deposited it on silicon--the principal component of most semiconductors and integrated circuits--in such a way that the silicon squeezed it into a ferroelectric state.

"It's great to see fundamental research on ordered layering of materials, or epitaxial growth, under strained conditions pay off in such a practical manner, particularly as it relates to ultra-thin ferroelectrics" said Lynnette Madsen, the NSF program director responsible for the Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team award.

The result could pave the way for a next-generation of memory devices that are lower power, higher speed and more convenient to use. For everyday computer users, it could mean no more waiting for the operating system to come online or to access memory slowly from the hard drive.

"Several hybrid transistors have been proposed specifically with ferroelectrics in mind," said Schlom. "By creating a ferroelectric directly on silicon, we are bringing this possibility closer to realization."

More research is needed to achieve a ferroelectric transistor that would make "instant on" computing a reality, but having the materials in direct contact, free of intervening reaction layers, is an important step.

The paper's first author, Maitri P. Warusawithana, is a postdoctoral associate in Schlom's lab. The research team also includes scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Motorola Corp., Ames Laboratory and Intel Corp.

Along with NSF, the Office of Naval Research and the Department of Energy funded the research.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8485, bmixon@nsf.gov

Program Contacts
Lynnette D. Madsen, NSF, (703) 292-4936, lmadsen@nsf.gov

Principal Investigators
Darrell Schlom, Cornell University, (607) 255-9617, ds636@cornell.edu

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

 Get News Updates by Email 

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
Awards Searches: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/

 

Cover of April 17, 2009, issue of Science magazine.
The researchers' findings are published in the April 17, 2009, issue of Science magazine.
Credit and Larger Version



Email this pagePrint this page
Back to Top of page