Record-breaking solid state memory stores data at 100 times the density of Blu-ray
Scientists at the University of Albertahave demonstrated a new data storage technique that stores zeroes andones by the presence (or absence) of individual hydrogen atoms. Theresulting storage density is an unparalleled 1.2 petabits per squareinch – 1,000 times greater than current hard disk and solid statedrives, and 100 times greater than Blu-rays.
Ultra-high density storage devicesaren't new, but they usually come with serious drawbacks that make them impractical in the real world. In the past,scientists have managed to store bits of digital information in a single molecule and even a single atom, but only in systems that had to operate atcryogenic temperatures, near vacuum pressure, or both. By contrast,this latest technology is designed work at room temperature and isexpected to be able to preserve information without errors for over500 years.
The researchers, led by PhD studentRoshanAchal and physics professor RobertWolkow,built on a technique previously developed by Walkow that used the tipof a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to remove or replaceindividual hydrogen atoms resting on a silicon substrate.
Theinconceivably small dimensions (a hydrogen atom is only half a nanometer in diameter) allow for an astounding data storagedensity of 1.1 petabits (138 terabytes) per square inch. By comparison, a Blu-raydisk can "only" store about 12 terabits of data in the same area(one hundredth the data density), while both traditional magnetichard drives and solid-state drives store somewhere in the region of1.5 terabits per square inch (a thousandth of the density). Thisdevelopment, says Achal, could allow you to store the entire iTuneslibrary of 45 million songs on the surface of a US quarter-dollarcoin.
Achal and his team demoed the technology bycreating a 192-bit cell, which they used to store a simple renditionof the Super Mario Bros video game theme song. To show the rewritecapabilities, the scientists also created an 8-bit memory cell whichthey used to store the letters of the alphabet one by one,represented via their respective ASCII code.
Unfortunately,writing speeds still leave something to be desired. According to theaccompanying paper, writing each 8-bit ASCII code took between 10 and120 seconds, which isn't exactly practical for today's consumerproducts. However, the fact that this technology is built on siliconand uses materials that can easily interface with existingsemiconductor technology bodes well for the future automation of theprocess.
Infact, Wolkow is confident that atom-scale fabrication is on the vergeof becoming commercially viable. His spinoff company, Quantum SiliconInc., is working on developing classical and quantum computers thatwould operate at room temperature and which, because of their atomicscale, would benefit from much reduced power consumption.
Thestudy appears in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications andis further illustrated in the video below.
Source: University of Alberta