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Lancaster varsity to commercialise computer memory Ultraram

Lancaster University is to create a spin-out company to commercialise the universal computer memory technology Ultraram. 

Invented by University’s Physics Professor Manus Hayne, Ultraram is a novel type of memory with extraordinary properties. It combines the non-volatility of a data storage memory, like flash, with the speed, energy-efficiency and endurance of working memory, like DRAM. To do this, it exploits quantum resonant tunnelling in compound semiconductors, materials commonly used in photonic devices such as LEDS, laser diodes and infrared detectors, but not in digital electronics, which is the preserve of silicon.

“Currently, the US$160 billion per annum memory market is dominated by DRAM and flash. They both have strengths, but also significant weaknesses, making them only suitable for specific roles. Ultraram is a ‘universal memory’ that combines the advantageous properties of DRAM and flash into a single memory concept, without any of their disadvantages. Our patented memory technology uses quantum mechanical resonant-tunnelling to provide an unmatched combination of speed, non-volatility, endurance and energy efficiency. Ultraram will allow the devices of tomorrow to have improved performance, whilst consuming significantly less energy,” says the company on its website. 

“Ultraram is ultra-efficient memory. Single bit switching energy at 20 nm node is 100 times lower than DRAM, 1000 times lower than flash, and 10,000 to 10,000,000 lower than other emerging memories. And the applications of Ultraram are many, including in cloud computing, consumer electronics, internet of things, space programme, cryo electronics and others,” the company adds. 

Initially patented in the US, further patents on the technology are progressing in key technology markets worldwide.

Ultraram is to be commercialised following the successful completion of the ICURe Explore award as part of the prestigious Innovate UK ICURe Programme designed to help researchers explore UK research's commercial application and potential.

The Ultraram team was awarded an ICURe Exploit award at an event in Glasgow which marked the culmination of various rounds of selection, from being proposed by the University and accepted onto the ICURe programme and then being selected as a result of the Options Roundabout.

“The process is a strenuous validation programme of both the scientific development, the market discovery and evidence gathering of need as well as an endorsement of the team’s skills and strengths to take this forward,” says Jess Wenmouth, commercialisation impact manager at the Lancaster University. 

Following this endorsement by the ICURe expert innovation panel, the proposal will develop to become a formal spin-out company from Lancaster University, with discussions already taking place with potential investors.

The panel felt the key areas of strength for the project included a clear global opportunity with potentially market-changing technology and huge market potential. 

The award also opens the door for the spin-out to bid for £300,000 of Innovate UK funding, exclusively available to successful ICURe graduates.

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