Faster devices mean binning binary

Researchers have discovered how to speed processing in apps, smartphones

A solution to increase the speed of interaction between the central processing unit and the memory of a computer or electronic device has been developed by researchers at Amber, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science centre, and TCD’s school of chemistry.

Professor John Boland of Amber said processors and memory currently communicate using the clunky language of binary code.

“Conventional on-chip memory stores information as ‘1’s’ and ‘0’s’, which reflects the presence or absence of charge at the memory location,” he said. “For example, ‘2014’ in binary language requires 11 cells of memory.”

Because it takes time for the computer to access such a large number of cells, the overall performance is impaired.


“There is a shuttling of information between the memory and the processor. Most of the time is spent transferring the information from the memory to the processor and back. That transfer is too slow and is thus a big problem.”

To function, the processor has to communicate efficiently with memory on the chip. However, Prof Boland said the properties of the metal wires connecting the processor and memory provide a fundamental speed limit.

“We can’t speed up the transfer, so we want to make it easier for the processor to find things in the memory.”

The new process reduces the number of cells required, he said. “Now there is just a two- level memory. Our research creates a multi-level memory.

“A memory language with greater density can increase the efficiency and speed of desktop and mobile technology by reducing the number of memory locations.”

Prof Boland said the discovery opens up a host of possibilities, leading to smaller, cheaper and faster electronics.

“It should reduce the amount of power required by devices such as smartphones. This will translate into faster apps and longer battery life.”

He said the current big race among smartphone makers is for a longer battery life and faster phones.

“We are doing this in a lab. It will take time to bring it to the marketplace. We have filed a patent. We will talk to companies about the technology next.”