Nav: Home

Scientists determine how much damage memory devices can take in mass transit accidents

December 08, 2016

BINGHAMTON, NY - While investigating mass transit accidents, especially in air travel, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials often rely on digital clues left behind in flash memories of any and all electronic devices -- both personal and professional -- at a crash site. With the physical forces and high-temperature fires associated with many crashes, memory units are often damaged and sometimes unreadable.

Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have figured out how much damage memory units can sustain before becoming unreadable and new repair techniques to retrieve clues off of damaged units, which might help prevent future tragedies.

"The biggest surprise was how much punishment these devices can take before ceasing to function," said Steve Cain, who is the project manager and a senior research support specialist in the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC) at Binghamton University. "As part of their post-crash investigations, the NTSB collects anything and everything at the scene, including personal electronic devices. If the device was active during or just before the crash, it is possible that the data stored in the memory can provide clues as to the cause of the crash. Most of the time the device is ruined, but sometimes it is intact."

The interdisciplinary Binghamton group of Cain, Preeth Sivakumar, Jack Lombardi, and Mark Poliks along with James Cash, Joseph Gregor, and Michael Budinski from the NTSB, presented "Fire Damage and Repair Techniques for Flash Memory Modules: Implication for Post-Crash Investigations" at the Fall 2016 International Symposium of Microelectronics.

Scientists found plastic coverings started to break down after three hours of exposure to temperatures of 300 degrees Celsius, or about 572 degrees Fahrenheit or more, but memory chips were still readable.

Researchers pointed out that even with the pressures and forces in play during past crashes, temperatures typically only reach those levels for short periods of time.

"Data integrity was maintained even in a plasma discharge," Cain said. "Basically, if the device doesn't burn up, there is a reasonable chance of the data being retained in the chip. The only problem is that the connections to the memory chips may be broken, so that the data cannot be read."

For the second part of the study, researchers addressed the readability issue. The team purposely damaged memory units and then extracted memory chips using acid, lasers, plasma, or mechanical polishing.

Lasers were the most effective extraction method and mechanical extractions was the simplest, but each method still damaged the wire bonds within memory chips and made many unreadable. A specialized metallic ink from a precision printer was used to restore functionality.

"These results expand the investigative scope for aviation accidents, where the data rather than the device is of paramount importance," the team concluded. "It is possible to repair the interconnections of flash memory modules, provided the chip is intact."
-end-


Binghamton University

Related Memory Articles:

Taking photos of experiences boosts visual memory, impairs auditory memory
A quick glance at any social media platform will tell you that people love taking photos of their experiences -- whether they're lying on the beach, touring a museum, or just waiting in line at the grocery store.
Think you know how to improve your memory? Think again
Research from Katherine Duncan at the University of Toronto suggests we may have to rethink how we improve memory.
Improving memory with magnets
The ability to remember sounds, and manipulate them in our minds, is incredibly important to our daily lives -- without it we would not be able to understand a sentence, or do simple arithmetic.
Who has the better memory -- men or women?
In the battle of the sexes, women have long claimed that they can remember things better and longer than men can.
New study of the memory through optogenetics
A collaboration between Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Harvard University pioneers the increase of memory using optogenetics in mice in Spain.
Peppermint tea can help improve your memory
Peppermint tea can improve long-term and working memory and in healthy adults.
A new glimpse into working memory
MIT study finds bursts of neural activity as the brain holds information in mind, overturns a long-held model.
Memory ensembles
For over forty years, neuro-scientists have been interested in the biological mechanisms underlying the storage of the information that our brain records every day.
What is your memory style?
Why is it that some people have richly detailed recollection of past experiences (episodic memory), while others tend to remember just the facts without details (semantic memory)?
Watching a memory form
Neuroscientists at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science have discovered a novel mechanism for memory formation.

Related Memory Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".