Scientists have discovered a shocking fact about a material called Vanadium dioxide (VO2). According to research published in Nature Electronics, VO2 can remember previous external stimuli. Researchers say it could completely change the future of computer and storage devices.
According to the researchers, the structures that form within Vanadium dioxide could act as a great replacement for silicon. Furthermore, because the structural states are long-lived, it could be optimal for storing and processing data. The recently published paper details just how the structural states form, and how they would work for storing information.
Researchers have previously proposed VO2 as a replacement for silicon. Its potential to outperform silicon as a semiconductor is well known within the engineering world. In addition to this potential and the material’s memory components are intriguing, what’s even more peculiar is the fact that when heated to a certain temperature, VO2 turns from an insulator to a metal.
This is called the metal-insulator transition. With Vanadium dioxide, it occurs when the material reaches above 68 degrees Celsius (154.5 degrees Fahrenheit). At that point, it becomes a great conductor. Scientists had already discovered why it reacts this way back in 2018. According to a paper published that year, VO2 rearranges its atoms as the temperature rises. This is what allows it to change from insulator to conductor.
This transition made engineer Mohammad Samizadeh Nikoo set out to investigate more in his recent studies. He found that when the temperature returned, Vanadium dioxide appeared to remember its recent activity. From there, he began experimenting with the material more, introducing an electrical current. That current then took a precise path from one site to the other. That current alone heated that part of the Vanadium dioxide, causing it to change states. When he reapplied the current after things had settled back down, the material seemed to remember the first phase transition.
Some scientists believe Vanadium dioxide could be harnessed to work as a storage material since the transition between these two states is similar to the way neurons in the brain work. However, researchers will need to study it more to prove the long-term viability of this material.