Scientists in America have created a new memory storage medium that can pack thousands of times more data into one square inch of space than conventional chips, and preserve this data for more than a billion years.
The breakthrough stems from the joint efforts of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley.
"We've developed a new mechanism for digital memory storage that consists of a crystalline iron nanoparticle shuttle enclosed within the hollow of a multiwalled carbon nanotube," said Alex Zettl, the physicist who led this research.
"Through this combination of nanomaterials and interactions, we've created a memory device that features both ultra-high density and ultra-long lifetimes, and that can be written to and read from using the conventional voltages already available in digital electronics," the researcher added.
This advancement attains significance considering that the ever-growing demand for digital storage of videos, images, music and text calls for storage media that pack increasingly more data onto chips that keep shrinking in size.
"Furthermore, as the system is naturally hermetically sealed, it provides its own protection against environmental contamination," Zettl said.
Her reckons that 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.
He believes that the technology could be on the market within the next two years, and its impact should be significant.
"Although truly archival storage is a global property of an entire memory system, the first requirement is that the underlying mechanism of information storage for individual bits must exhibit a persistence time much longer than the envisioned lifetime of the resulting device. A single bit lifetime in excess of a billion years demonstrates that our system has the potential to store information reliably for any practical desired archival time scale," he said.
"We believe our nanoscale electromechanical memory system presents a new solution to the challenge of ultra-high density archival data storage," he added.
A research article on this advancement has been published on-line by Nano Letters.