Researchers at North Carolina State University have managed to create a "universal" memory unit that combines the speed of DRAM with the large capacity and non-volatility of flash memory.
In place of DRAM's single gate, the new memory has a double floating-gate field-effect-transistor (FET). The first float gate is leaky (volatile) and needs constant refreshing every 16 milliseconds - exactly like traditional DRAM gates - but by increasing the voltage applied to it, its value can be transferred to the second gate which is non-volatile (permanent).
"Memories made using our new double floating-gate structure should be about as fast as DRAM-and will need to be refreshed as often-but their densities will be about the same as flash," said EE professor Paul Franzon at NC State.
The research team doesn't seem to have plans to use the new memory to create an ultrafast disk drive; instead they are developing a power efficient RAM which would store all its content in the second gates and turn itself off when the system is idle. The team hopes to produce the first working prototype within a year.