The Future of Integration: Better Memory Devices?

Loraine Lawson

With all of our technology, we've managed to create and accumulate a mass of information and data unprecedented in human history.


Unfortunately for us, in 500 years, it'll look like we lived in a second dark age. Consider this: While the original copy of William the Conqueror's Doomsday Book written on vellum survives after 900 years, the first copy transferred to digital in 1986 failed within 20 years.


Humbling, isn't it? We can create and store huge amounts of data, but something written on untanned calfskin and polished with pumice and talc is more likely to survive than our silicon chips.


But that's about to change-and in a dramatic way-thanks to Alex Zettl and a team of scientists from the University of California and Pennsylvania State University.


A new memory device they're working on would be able to store data for a billion years. Details about the device will be published this month in the June 10 issue of the American Chemical Society's Nano Letters, according to a recent ACS publication release (see item 4).


But wait-like an infomercial, there's more. The new memory devices would also allow you to store thousands of times more data than silicon devices, yet still can be used with existing computer systems.


And here's the really exciting part for enterprises-the new device will '"facilitate large-scale integration." Unfortunately, that's all the details available on the integration ramifications at this point. I guess we'll have to wait until the full article is published for more.


Pretty cool, right?


The ACS press release offered a simple explanation of the device:

The researchers describe development of an experimental memory device consisting of an iron nanoparticle (1/50,000 the width of a human hair) enclosed in a hollow carbon nanotube. In the presence of electricity, the nanoparticle can be shuttled back and forth with great precision. This creates a programmable memory system that, like a silicon chip, can record digital information and play it back using conventional computer hardware.

You can also see a diagram and read a more technical description in the abstract, "Nanoscale Reversible Mass Transport for Archival Memory," published in the April edition of NanoLetters.


A special shout-out to Tom's Guide, which is where I first saw the news about this device.

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