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'Breakthrough' LI-RAM Material Can Store Data With Light (ctvnews.ca) 104

A Vancouver researcher has patented a new material that uses light instead of electricity to store data. An anonymous reader writes: LI-RAM -- that's light induced magnetoresistive random-access memory -- promises supercomputer speeds for your cellphones and laptops, according to Natia Frank, the materials scientist at the University of Victoria who developed the new material as part of an international effort to reduce the heat and power consumption of modern processors. She envisions a world of LI-RAM mobile devices which are faster, thinner, and able to hold much more data -- all while consuming less power and producing less heat.

And best of all, they'd last twice as long on a single charge (while producing almost no heat), according to a report on CTV News, which describes this as "a breakthrough material" that will not only make smartphones faster and more durable, but also more energy-efficient. The University of Victoria calculates that's 10% of the world's electricity is consumed by "information communications technology," so LI-RAM phones could conceivably cut that figure in half.

They also report that the researcher is "working with international electronics manufacturers to optimize and commercialize the technology, and says it could be available on the market in the next 10 years."
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'Breakthrough' LI-RAM Material Can Store Data With Light

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because we all know there's no such thing as "light".

  • Nah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday April 17, 2017 @07:42AM (#54247905) Journal

    Maybe it's because I'm turning 50 this year, but I simply don't believe it.

    At a certain point I suspect "fantastic claim" fatigue has to set in, where you've heard so many promising concepts but watched the huge majority founder on realities of cost, industrial scaling, or unforseen complications.

    The fact that they say it might make it to the market in ten years means it's barely more than a tenuous idea right now, and frankly probably not even worth reporting on. The hyperbolic claims by the inventor make it even less credible, while the nonsensical reporting (implying that such devices would actually run only in light) is idiotic.

    • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fnj ( 64210 ) on Monday April 17, 2017 @08:03AM (#54247951)

      The stupid summary leaps to the absurd conclusion that mobiles represent 100% of the power consumption made by ALL IT equipment. I'm pretty sure it's actually more like 1%; perhaps less.

    • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday April 17, 2017 @08:08AM (#54247969)

      It's the technology news/pr machine. I think we've had "breakthroughs" like this for ages, but what we didn't have for most of the time was a relentless, hype-oriented technology "press" that made us aware of them, and also spun them up into the next big thing. They were what they were, quiet little advancements that might or might not ever see the light of the day.

    • Maybe it's because I'm turning 50 this year, but I simply don't believe it.

      At a certain point I suspect "fantastic claim" fatigue has to set in, where you've heard so many promising concepts but watched the huge majority founder on realities of cost, industrial scaling, or unforseen complications.

      The fact that they say it might make it to the market in ten years means it's barely more than a tenuous idea right now, and frankly probably not even worth reporting on. The hyperbolic claims by the inventor make it even less credible, while the nonsensical reporting (implying that such devices would actually run only in light) is idiotic.

      Came here to post exactly this, I don't even have anything to add. Well done!

      • Re:Nah (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Cytotoxic ( 245301 ) on Monday April 17, 2017 @08:18AM (#54247999)

        Yeah.... 5 years out for a tech claim means "we have a bit of experimental data that shows something might work. (Please fund me)".

        10 years out in the tech world means "this is wild speculation and might never even become a technical demonstration. (Please fund my startup)"

        • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday April 17, 2017 @10:10AM (#54248421)

          Yeah.... 5 years out for a tech claim means "we have a bit of experimental data that shows something might work. (Please fund me)".

          10 years out in the tech world means "this is wild speculation and might never even become a technical demonstration. (Please fund my startup)"

          So, what's your solution? For all of the whining and moaning, and hand wringing, it seems that the answer for so many slashdotters is "Jeezuz NO! not another change! Not a breakthrough! Stop reporting on stuff!"

          I can always see who works in science/tech - and some times who shouldn't be - by these posts.

          Technology does not spring forth fully formed and beautiful, like Venus from the sea. Stuff takes time. In my field, it typically takes 20 years to develop a concept into a finished product. A few I've worked on were 50+ years from someone's concept to end development. Just depends on how far ahead of the curve the ideas go.

          It isn't to say that there isn't bullshit. I recall a super radio antenna design from Rutgers that was claimed to be so efficient that the 100 watts pumped into it caused the antenna to melt. Parse that for a bit, and see if you can't come to a completely different conclusion.

          Which is all to say, if we have a good reason to believe that a story is bogus, like in the above instance, an antenna melting is the very antithesis of efficient - by all means point it out.

          But back to the idea that if there is a time period before deployment of 5 or 10 years, that it is bogus, well, you are applying a metric to technology that is just plain wrong.

          A good hint is battery tech. They aren't inventing new elements, and we know what combinations will produce what. For a log time we've known. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] Breakthroughs aren't often breakthroughs. The concepts and lab results very often need years of technological advancements in manufacturing processes to catch up. In the meantime, getting pissed or completely pessimistic about it is kinda a get off my lawn reaction.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            So, what's your solution? For all of the whining and moaning, and hand wringing, it seems that the answer for so many slashdotters is "Jeezuz NO! not another change! Not a breakthrough! Stop reporting on stuff!"

            My proposal would be to stop reporting on stuff that is 100% fluff, and 0% technical details.

            • So, what's your solution? For all of the whining and moaning, and hand wringing, it seems that the answer for so many slashdotters is "Jeezuz NO! not another change! Not a breakthrough! Stop reporting on stuff!"

              My proposal would be to stop reporting on stuff that is 100% fluff, and 0% technical details.

              This link might give you little more details - http://www.thehindu.com/sci-te... [thehindu.com]

          • by neoRUR ( 674398 )

            I agree, Slashdot used to be the place to report these things and then have an intelligent discussion about the ideas. Once and awhile we get one of those, but most of the time it's just a 'your crazy, get out of here' reaction.

            Maybe all of this is not true, but I'm sure some of it is and it's an area that we should put money into more research.

            • I agree, Slashdot used to be the place to report these things and then have an intelligent discussion about the ideas. Once and awhile we get one of those, but most of the time it's just a 'your crazy, get out of here' reaction.

              Maybe all of this is not true, but I'm sure some of it is and it's an area that we should put money into more research.

              I do have questions. The presumed power use, has me skeptical. But remembering the old school UV-PROMS, it's no doubt that light can be harnessed to mess with. But follow up and discussion is awesome.

              The concept that so many slashdotters that they do not want to even read it, and want it actively suppressed, allows us understanding of how reactionary humans through the ages, have severe problems when encountering truth that does not locksep with their worldview.

    • Amen

    • Can't add much more, other than it's interesting that nowadays the headlines are made by talking about how much these currently-in-the-vaporware-stage technologies will affect phones. Ten years ago it would have been all about how much better the PC's and laptops would get.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Science/Technology journalists frequently turn the hype up to 11 just like sports commentators.
      It may be a bit hard for you to notice since so much tech has a 20 year lead time or more from journal article to product but a lot of the stuff we take for granted now was once those "fantastic claims". If you'd shown me white LEDs and the lithium batteries of today in 1980 they would have looked like "fantastic claims" to me.
    • by swell ( 195815 )

      "The fact that they say it might make it to the market in ten years means it's barely more than a tenuous idea right now ..."

      Yeah, and those dang 'horseless carriages' are another waste of time. What a stupid idea! Noisy stinky unreliable contraption that can't go faster than a mule.

    • The old saying is wrong. In reality, extraordinary claims require hyperbolic press releases.

    • Old people should believe in this more than ever. Everything old is new again. That means that using light for stored memory is already patented by IBM. I wonder if this technology achieves greater memory density per cubic foot than those old boxes of punch cards.
    • I have taken to calling this "Popular Science Fatigue". It's where you read about some wonderful breakthrough technology in Popular Science or some other mass-market source and then it disappears never to be seen again.

    • Indeed. All the "light" hogwash aside, all the proposed benefits are also moot. RAM or memory in general do not consume a great amount of power. Compared to other components, they already consume probably the least amount of power. So should the improvement even be astronomical, in real terms it is moot.

      Depending on your device, your consumers of power are going to be your GPU or your CPU, or on something like your phone, your display, by many orders of magnitude over whatever the memory might be using. Whi

  • Um.... huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday April 17, 2017 @07:49AM (#54247919) Homepage

    which describes this as "a breakthrough material" that will not only make smartphones faster and more durable, but also more energy-efficient. The University of Victoria calculates that's 10% of the world's electricity is consumed by "information communications technology," so LI-RAM phones could conceivably cut that figure in half.

    Um, 10% of the world's electricity is not consumed by phones. And even if they actually meant all computing and networking equipment combined, how is a RAM advancement supposed to cut all power consumed by computers, switches, etc in half?

    Remember Samsung’s burning phones? That won’t be an issue with the LI-RAM because the light system could produce almost no heat.

    Facepalm.

    • > how is a RAM advancement supposed to cut all power consumed by computers, switches, etc in half?

      Cutting it in HALF is probably overstating it, but all of those devices use RAM, and would benefit from more efficient RAM.

      Generally, routers (real routers, as opposed to consumer wireless access points) process 99.9% of the packets with RAM tricks, using almost no cpu. The cpu is mostly there to process commands to the router, such as configuration changes, while packets flowing *through* the router are

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Monday April 17, 2017 @08:37AM (#54248073) Journal

    So I did a very quick search on the internet looking for Light induced RAM and Light induced magnetoresistance and only found one article that predates the slashdot article and the one it links to. (Ok, I'm procrastinating from doing other stuff).

    http://www.uvic.ca/home/about/... [www.uvic.ca]

    This university published article is just as short on details and has no links to any published research. It's also a bit laughable: "new material allows computer chips to exist at a molecular level" which means what exactly? Computer chips currently don't exist at the molecular level? Anyway, don't mean to give their communications department a hard time, I just want more solid info.

    It's clear that some of the claims from the hyped article that slashdot cites are ridiculous (at least the university release doesn't make those claims). The journalists, lacking any background in science probably called up some "experts" and said (out of context) "if you had a material that could do such and such" what would be the advantages. So, these experts, whether or not they actually know anything, just started making things up like it'll cut down on energy consumption (true but not a huge amount) and that it would prevent fires like the Samsung smart phone (probably not because the modest power savings from this RAM would not allow the battery to be designed differently which was the cause of the fires).

    Unfortunately, the heat (and power) problems are not in the RAM but in the processor (amongst other things) which this technology does not address. In the university article they say that it is part of an effort to reduce the power and heat of processors but does not say this technology does this. Apparently, from the article, it is only suitable for RAM; hence the name LI-RAM. So while it may be faster (good) and not give off much heat (also good) it doesn't live up to the hype in the distorted media interpretations of the university article (which the slashdot submitter then chopped up and republished). This all assumes that they can get this to work at the fantastic performance and density levels of modern RAM all while not introducing new sources of heat and power to make it work (it requires "green light' presumably from a laser).

    Anyway, if you want to waste some time, take a look at the Slashdot link and then look at the university article and you'll see how information can be mangled and hyped up by people who don't have a background in the subject. Of course, since we all like "free" (or ad supported) news, we aren't exactly encouraging accurate journalism :(

    • ... which is very very far from any practically working piece of hardware. At least the text of the university itself clearly states this is a "proposed procect":

      "The objective of this research is to explore new classes of compounds that exhibit multifunctional magnetic properties of fundamental importance to high-density storage methods and molecular electronics. The scope of the proposed projects cover a broad range of fundamental topics in chemistry, including organic and inorganic synthesis, structure
  • https://twitter.com/nlfrank1 [twitter.com] is her own tweets, http://www.uvic.ca/home/about/... [www.uvic.ca] is the press release from the university.
  • FTFA:

    Remember Samsung’s burning phones? That won’t be an issue with the LI-RAM because the light system could produce almost no heat.

    Wow. Just how easy is it to get a job as a tech analyst at CTV? This seems to be attributed to CTV tech analyst Carmi Levy. Was it her or the author that screwed this up?

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      They are going to replace batteries with RAM, that's how amazingly breakthrough this RAM is.

      • They are going to replace batteries with RAM, that's how amazingly breakthrough this RAM is.

        Perhaps there will be solar cells within the RAM that provide electricity for the phone. To recharge your phone you just shine a flashlight into the USB port and it traps all the light inside...

        And the greatest part of all- you can charge that flashlight from your phone.

  • It increases usage. Jevons Paradox [wikipedia.org]

    As a simple example, do you think bitcoin miners are going to pocket the savings, or expand operations to leverage the savings?

    • I think the guy/organization in China who effectively owns the Bitcoin network will upgrade just enough to ensure they remains in control, while not owning the network obviously and entirely to reduce the cultist's confidence in it to the point he can't keep extracting wealth from the US.

      It's not about maximizing Bitcoin mining, it's about maximizing net profits and keeping the scam going for as long as possible.

  • "devices which are faster, thinner..."

    I guess they will continue to make them thinner until they cut.
    An we'll just use bigger and bigger cases.

  • ...the tubes found in older electronics? Kind of steampunkish. I didn't think you could have light without electrons.
  • I am so sick of slashdotters throwing around the word PATENT and not knowing what it is. They filed a god damn PATENT APPLICATION. Get it fucking right next time.
  • Uhh, my phone is easily as powerful as a Cray, so.... already there!

  • So, in other words, they're trying to sucker some VC's into giving them their money?
  • Light-induced chemical memory: photographic films/papers, typically subject to fading but it can be "fixed" to last decades or longer.

    Light-induced biological read-only memory, very short-term/fades fast if not refreshed: photoreceptors in the eyes

    Light-induced biological read-only memory, fades after a few days or weeks if not refreshed: sunburn/tan-lines

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