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When it comes to data storage, density and duration have always moved in opposite directions: the more density, the less duration. For example, information carved in stone is not very dense, but it can last for thousands of years, whereas today's silicon memory chips can store a lot of information, but only for a few decades.
However, researchers from the LBNL (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have ended this tradition by inventing a new storage medium capable of storing thousands of times more information in 2.5cm2 than conventional chips and conserving it. for over a billion years!
The new nanoscale electromechanical memory device writes and reads data based on the position of an iron nanoparticle inside a carbon nanotube.
"We have developed a new digital memory storage mechanism that consists of a shuttle made up of a crystalline iron nanoparticle embedded in the inner hollow of a multi-walled carbon nanotube," said physicist Alex Zettl, who led the research. “Using this combination of nanomaterials and interactions, we have created a memory device that exhibits both characteristics: ultra-high density and ultra-long life; and in which it can be written and read using the conventional voltages already available in digital electronic devices ”.
Zettl, one of the world's leading researchers on nanoscale devices and systems and director of the UC Berkeley Integrated Nanomechanical Systems Cento, is the lead author of the work, published online in Nano Letters magazine under the title: “Nanoscale Reversible Mass Transport for Archival Memory. "
The growing demand for digital storage for videos, pictures, music and text requires a storage media that stores more and more data on chips that are getting smaller and smaller.
To solve this question, Zettl and his collaborators have created a programmable memory system based on a moving part, an iron nanoparticle that, in the presence of a low-voltage electrical current, can be propelled up and down inside a nanotube. carbon with extraordinary precision. The position of the nanoparticle inside the tube can be read directly by a simple electrical resistance measurement, allowing it to function as a non-volatile memory element with possibly hundreds of binary memory states.
According to Zettl, the new system has an information density of up to a trillion bits per 2.5cm2 and a thermodynamic stability of more than a billion years. "What's more, since the system is hermetically sealed naturally, it offers its own protection against environmental contamination," he added.
The low-voltage electrical write / read capabilities of the memory element of this electromechanical device facilitate large-scale integration and should also facilitate its incorporation into current silicon processing systems. Therefore, Zettl estimates that the technology could reach the market in the next two years, causing a significant impact.