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Computer memory could increase fivefold from advances in self-assembling polymers
Date:11/13/2012

AUSTIN, Texas The storage capacity of hard disk drives could increase by a factor of five thanks to processes developed by chemists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin.

The researchers' technique, which relies on self-organizing substances known as block copolymers, was described this week in an article in Science. It's also being given a real-world test run in collaboration with HGST, one of the world's leading innovators in disk drives.

"In the last few decades there's been a steady, exponential increase in the amount of information that can be stored on memory devices, but things have now reached a point where we're running up against physical limits," said C. Grant Willson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and the Rashid Engineering Regents Chair in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

With current production methods, zeroes and ones are written as magnetic dots on a continuous metal surface. The closer together the dots are, the more information can be stored in the same area. But that tactic has been pretty much maxed out. The dots have now gotten so close together that any further increase in proximity would cause them to be affected by the magnetic fields of their neighboring dots and become unstable.

"The industry is now at about a terabit of information per square inch," said Willson, who co-authored the paper with chemical engineering professor Chris Ellison and a team of graduate and undergraduate students. "If we moved the dots much closer together with the current method, they would begin to flip spontaneously now and then, and the archival properties of hard disk drives would be lost. Then you're in a world of trouble. Can you imagine if one day your bank account info just changed spontaneously?"

There's a quirk in the physics, however. If the dots are isolated from one another, with no magnetic material between them, they can be p
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Contact: Daniel Oppenheimer
daniel.oppenheimer@utexas.edu
512-745-3353
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert  

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