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A billion-year ultra-dense memory chip
Date:6/5/2009

king in size. However, this demand runs in sharp contrast to the history of data storage. Compare the stone carvings in the Egyptian temple of Karnak, which store approximately two bits of data per square inch but can still be read after nearly 4,000 years, to a modern DVD which can store 100 giga (billion) bits of data per square inch but will probably remain readable for no more than 30 years.

"Interestingly," said Zettl, "the Domesday Book, the great survey of England commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1086 and written on vellum, has survived over 900 years, while the 1986 BBC Domesday Project, a multimedia survey marking the 900th anniversary of the original Book, required migration from the original high-density laserdiscs within two decades because of media failure."

Zettl and his collaborators were able to buck data storage history by creating a programmable memory system that is based on a moveable part an iron nanoparticle, approximately 1/50,000th the width of a human hair, that in the presence of a low voltage electrical current can be shuttled back and forth inside a hollow carbon nanotube with remarkable precision. The shuttle's position inside the tube can be read out directly via a simple measurement of electrical resistance, allowing the shuttle to function as a nonvolatile memory element with potentially hundreds of binary memory states.

"The shuttle memory has application for archival data storage with information density as high as one trillion bits per square inch and thermodynamic stability in excess of one billion years," Zettl said. "Furthermore, as the system is naturally hermetically sealed, it provides its own protection against environmental contamination."

The low voltage electrical write/read capabilities of the memory element in this electromechanical device facilitates large-scale integration and should make for easy incorporation into today's silicon processing systems. Zettl believes the
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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