PerspectiveApplied Physics

Phase-Change Memories on a Diet

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  29 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6029, pp. 543-544
DOI: 10.1126/science.1204093

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Summary

In 1637 René Descartes was pondering the possibilities of human-made machines, being certain that their potential would be very limited. It was inconceivable to him that a machine could ever “arrange words so as to adequately reply to what is said in its presence” (1). The recent competition between IBM's supercomputer Watson and two of the most successful Jeopardy champions demonstrates how far human-made machines have progressed. Nevertheless, Watson's success comes at appreciable cost: Whereas humans perform their daily duty of “thinking” by consuming an average power of only 50 W, Watson consumes more than 2 MW. Imagine how helpful computers could be if processing and storing data could be accomplished by much less power-hungry computers. On page 568 of this issue, Xiong et al. (2) demonstrate a remarkable step forward whereby a new design for phase-change memory can lead to a drastic reduction in the power requirements for its operation.