Data demands are growing throughout the world, and researchers must push the boundaries of tech to meet those needs. A team from the University of Alberta has recently unveiled a potential technological solution, which involves creating more memory using a smaller amount of space.
They used atomic-scale nanotechnology to produce small, dense, solid-state, rewritable memory “that could soon exceed the capabilities of current hard drives by 1,000 times,” according to the University of Alberta in a press release.
“Essentially, you can take all 45 million songs on iTunes and store them on the surface of one quarter. Five years ago, this wasn’t even something we thought possible,” says Roshan Achal, PhD student in the Department of Physics at the University of Alberta, and lead author of the research.
The recent discovery can function within real-world temperatures. This is a notable feature, as previous attempts only reached stability at cryogenic conditions.
“What is often overlooked in the nanofabrication business is actual transportation to an end user that simply was not possible until now given temperature restrictions,” says Achal. “Our memory is stable well above room temperature and precise down to the atom.”
Data archival is an immediate application, with more soon to come after the team increases readout and writing speeds.
Achal has worked closely with Robot Wolkow, a professor at the University of Alberta, who delves in the field of atomic-scale physics. After years of research and collaborated efforts, atomic-scale manufacturing is gearing up for commercialization.
“With this last piece of the puzzle now in-hand, atom-scale fabrication will become a commercial reality in the very near future,” says Wolkow.
Achal, Wolkow, and the rest of their team conducted a few experiments to demonstrate the recent discovery. First, they fabricated the world’s smallest maple leaf encoded with the entire alphabet, at a density of 138 terabytes. According the press release, that’s equal to writing 350,000 letters across something as small as a grain of rice.
Achal also stored music using atom-sized memory, which you can learn more about in the video below.