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Nano-Scale Memory Fits A Terabit On A Square Inch

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the teeny-tiny-mp3-collection dept.

Hardware 199

prostoalex writes "San Jose Business Journal talks about Nanochip, a company that's developing molecular-scale memory: "Nanochip has developed prototype arrays of atomic-force probes, tiny instruments used to read and write information at the molecular level. These arrays can record up to one trillion bits of data -- known as a terabit -- in a single square inch. That's the storage density that magnetic hard disk drive makers hope to achieve by 2010. It's roughly equivalent to putting the contents of 25 DVDs on a chip the size of a postage stamp." The story also mentions Millipede project from IBM, where scientists are trying to build nano-scale memory that relies on micromechanical components."

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199 comments

Finally (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797705)

I'll be able to store my gigaquads in a compact space.

WORD TO YOUR MOTHER, BITCHES (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797710)

Ive seen this before (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797711)

They were talkig about this a while back on simulatedlucidity.com

25 DVDs? (1, Insightful)

chris-johnson (45745) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797715)

Last time I checked, a DVD was (roughly) 4 GB, so 25 DVDs is only 100GB?

Re:25 DVDs? (3, Informative)

captain igor (657633) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797730)

Yes, a terabit = 125 Gigabytes, which is 31.25 DVDs

Re:25 DVDs? (1)

djward (251728) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797823)

This is all very confusing. Someone please tell me, how many Libraries of Congress is that?

Re:25 DVDs? (1, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797842)

The LOC is about 20 TB worth of data. So the storage medium here is roughly 1/160th of an LOC :-)

Re:25 DVDs? (1)

Sonic McTails (700139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797735)

A double-sided DVD is 7.4GB, but your righ, that's still nowhere close to a terrabyte. I just wonder how long until we start to think a terrabyte is small.

Re:25 DVDs? (2, Funny)

kyouteki (835576) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797932)

Except, of course, nobody said anything about terabytes, or even terrabytes.

Re:25 DVDs? (2, Insightful)

chris-johnson (45745) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797743)

And of course after I post, I see terabit instead of terabyte.

Re:25 DVDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797744)

Yes, 100GB would be about a Terabit, things like parity considered...

Re:25 DVDs? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797767)

A Terabit is 125GB. Single layer dvd discs store 4.7GB while dual layer discs store 8.5GB.

25 DVDs is a really bad comparison since the size of a dvd could vary.

Re:25 DVDs? (2, Informative)

XorNand (517466) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797846)

DVD-R / DVD+R capacities are 4.7GB. However, actual pressed, dual-layer DVDs are 8.54GB (single-sided). So the analogy is a bit incomplete. A better analogy, of course, is how many hogshead of LoC does it hold?

Re:25 DVDs? (1)

darkpixel2k (623900) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797851)

After doing a quick grep of the page for the word 'congress' and finding no results, I thought I'd karma whore:

"But what is that in Libraries of Congress?"

Re:25 DVDs? (1)

chris mazuc (8017) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798061)

According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , one LoC is 20 terabytes, so the answer is 0.00625.

Re:25 DVDs? (1)

frinsore (153020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797857)

Since a DVD can hold 15.9 GB (that's dual layer and dual sided, the current maximum) the formula would look like:
15.9 GB * 25 = 397.5 GB and then to convert from Bytes to bits:
397.5 * 8 = 3180 which approximates 3.1 Tb

so comparing it to the DVD format is a poor frame of reference

Re:25 DVDs? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797966)

Last time i checked, dvd movies from the store were 8ish.. ( dual layer )

But whos counting?

Re:25 DVDs? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797989)

Last time I checked, a postage stamp wasn't a square inch either!

pr0n! (-1, Offtopic)

Low2000 (606536) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797728)

And here come all of the porn jokes.... *braces self

Magnetic memory = Doom (1, Funny)

Geogriffith (861880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797731)

Is it just me, or is persistent memory (i.e. magnetic) a really bad idea?

Now instead of rebooting to wipe viruses, spyware, crashed programs from memory, now we're going to have to wave a magnet inside our computers.

A step backwards, if you ask me.

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (1)

k512-arch (796444) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797758)

who says you can't reboot anymore? man, it'd be nice to be able to turn off your computer, and instantly go back to work when you turn it back on. if you have spyware problems, then go ahead and restart, there'll still be the option to.

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (2, Insightful)

Canadian_Daemon (642176) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797774)

So, you are writing you 10 000 line program, get half way through it today, save to your non persistent memory, shutdown for the night, and what? You really ought to think about it for a while, how often do you use your harddrive? Never, well then you are correct in your idea that persistent memory is a bad idea. However, if you are like any person in the world that boots their OS from a hard drive, or saves their work to a hard drive, or plays games, then you probably want persistent memory

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (1)

TERdON (862570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797792)

Well, he might be using Knoppix or another live-cd, and when finished for the day, burn his accomplishments to cd/dvd (ie persistent, but optical, not magnetic storage).

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (0, Offtopic)

Aeiri (713218) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797986)

So, you are writing you 10 000 line program, get half way through it today,

I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a LOT of work for one day... 5,000 lines?

And how many bugs do you think will be in those 5,000 lines if you only worked on that in one day? 10,000? 20,000?

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (1)

Canadian_Daemon (642176) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798861)

yes, because that was the point of my analogy, that the poster could write 5 000 lines of code a day.

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797776)

Or have an electromagnet that zaps it. Or have the shutdown/boot up sequence (via BIOS hardware) automatically reset all the memory locations.

Ok .. now get me the patent on this cause although its obvious i had the idea of patenting it first.

Too bad I'm posting as an AC though. sucks.

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (4, Informative)

GerbilSoft (761537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797787)

Warm reboots don't erase memory. Cold reboots usually don't erase memory, either. (There are still fragments of what was left before after doing a cold boot.)

And as almost all data recovery people know, reformatting a hard drive using the conventional disk formatting commands don't really erase anything; they merely create new directory structures. In order to really erase a disk, you have to use something like Eraser [heidi.ie] or `dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/hda`.

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (3, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798011)

Warm reboots don't erase memory. Cold reboots usually don't erase memory, either. (There are still fragments of what was left before after doing a cold boot.)

Standard DRAM will maintain its state --- mostly --- for a remarkably long time without refreshing. Unfortunately, it doesn't do so in a useful state.

I once was working on an embedded device that had VGA out. The development cycle was power on, boot from TFTP, run system, wait until it crashed, power off, repeat. When the system switched on, one of the first things the boot loader did was to initialise the video chipset, but without clearing the video memory.

If the board had been off for less than about five minutes, you could still see the last display that had been there when the board crashed.

Without refreshes, the data would gradually fade; the image was always corrupted with snow. The longer you left it switched off for, the worse the snow got. Different RAM chips lasted different lengths of time --- there was one band across the middle that would become completely unintelligable in about 30s, while another one could hold an image for about two minutes.

I suppose you could use this to store data for short periods during a power down, but you'd have to use so much redundancy to ensure that the data would survive the inevitable corruption that it probably wouldn't be worth it, but I'm sure someone, somewhere, could come up with a Nifty Trick(TM)... You couldn't do it at all on PCs, of course --- on boot, they wipe all their RAM, video or otherwise.

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798735)

This is offtopic but I actually fixed a broken hard drive with dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/hdb. It was reporting bad sectors all over the place, and SMART (which isn't really) said it had "Imminent Failure". So, I salvaged what I could, and after trying to format, along with many other things, I just tried overwriting the entire thing. It worked. 2 years later the drive is still in top condition reporting no bad sectors. I think that People could save a lot of hard drives with that small amount of information.

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (2, Informative)

orangesquid (79734) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798818)

That's because a 20Gig drive usually has something like 22-24Gigs of space; the extra space is used to relocate bad blocks.

If you completely overwrite a bad block, the drive's firmware is usually smart enough to move it to a new place. Reading from a bad block until you manage to get (most of) the data, and then re-writing it, will sometimes work (due to the same mechanism).

I'm told some drives are smart enough to try to "fix" bad blocks without being forced to like this, but I don't know of any (mostly likely because there would be no way to tell, since it would be user-transparent).

Occasionally, a drive will have some sort of mechanical shock which will damage a portion of the disk; often, the disk is not "failing," but has simply become partly damaged. A true "failing" disk would mean that the disk material was corroding, or that a poorly designed drive was losing its own low-level formatting from the motor's magnetic fields (I doubt that would ever happen, though), or something pretty ugly like that.

(I don't know if what I've said is completely true; please correct me if I'm talking out of my ass. It's been a long time since I've looked this up.)

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797869)

Now instead of rebooting to wipe viruses, spyware, crashed programs from memory, now we're going to have to wave a magnet inside our computers.

I thought everybody did that?!

But I once tried to swing a cat in there and discovered that I have a much smaller case than I figured...

Re:Magnetic memory = Doom (1)

Dolda2000 (759023) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798342)

It's not like you actually have to clear the memory to get to a clean state. Just jumping back to the boot ROM or restarting the kernel ought to do the same thing for you.

Rather, non-volatile memory instead has the enormous advantage that you can shut down your computer (physically) without shutting down your software system.

Hmm (3, Insightful)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797742)

These arrays can record up to one trillion bits of data -- known as a terabit -- in a single square inch.

Is that a hardware terabit or a software terabit?

Re:Hmm (3, Funny)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797759)

Or, if they're rounding, is it a tibibit?

Re:Hmm (1)

Jesus 2.0 (701858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797760)

Probably neither. Are you familiar with the word "approximation"?

And even in the extremely unlikely case that exactly one terabit exactly fits in exactly one square inch, the answer to your question is contained in the sentence you quoted anyway: "one trillion bits of data".

How long. (0, Flamebait)

lifejunkie (785838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797750)

How long before it's non-volatile?

Re:How long. (1)

lifejunkie (785838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797795)

Opps, looks like it is.

Re:How long. (4, Informative)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797800)

It is non-volatile by nature. But it is not likely to be fast enough to replace RAM. Instead it could replace Flash memory or even (depending on cost) hard drives. The real question is, how long until it's practical to manufacture and use in mass-produced products? The answer seems to be (according to the article) 2007-2010 timeframe.

What about speed? (4, Interesting)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797751)

This kind of devices would be incredible for backup purposes, but also, the recording method seems to be also fast, would they accept allmost-unlimited rewrites?, in that case, this technology could finally replace magnetic devices. Solid state is allways better, but so far, the existing alternatives don't offer the durability and flexibility of hard disks.

Go ahead (5, Informative)

killa62 (828317) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797769)

Mod me -1 redundant if you like, but for people out there, but 1 trillion b= 125,000,000,000 bytes = 116 GB, or if you're a harddrive manufacturer, its 125 GB.

It's the question of data intensity ;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797884)

But the average 125 Gigabyte drive is much bigger than 1 inch x 1 inch x 1 millimeter, no?

This is redundant (1)

SlashThat (859697) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798034)

As the writer says, it's 1 terabit, or 125GB. Which is about 25 DVDs, given that a DVD is about 5GB. And yes, it's denser than hard disks, but not by far.

Re:Go ahead (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798102)

1 terabit = 125 GB (gigabyte)
1 terabit = 116 GiB (gibibyte)

Networking and storage use base-10, memory uses base-2.

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Gibibyte.html

Re:Go ahead (1)

jdmuir (207188) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798132)

  • trillion b= 125,000,000,000 bytes = 116 GiB

Get your units right; the hard drive manufacturers have.

Re:Go ahead (2, Informative)

bohnsack (2301) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798152)

1 trillion bits is 125 GB, whether you're a hard drive manufacturer or not, as "G" is exactly defined as 10^9 [nist.gov] . If you're interested in representing this quantity in terms of multiples of 2^(30), as in your 116, 1 trillion bits is more correctly stated as 116.5 GiB, 116.5 gigabinary bytes, or 116.5 gibibytes. See the SI spec on prefixes for binary multiples [nist.gov] for more information.

Postage Stamp Storage (3, Funny)

cybercobra (856248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797770)

Cool, the next time I need to send something over sneakernet to someone far away, I'll just send a postcard with 2 stamps on it. 1 postal and 1 storage stamp.

More information (4, Informative)

ploss (860589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797781)

More information about the company can be found at their website, http://www.nanochip.com.nyud.net:8090 [nyud.net] [Coral Cache Link].

Re:More information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797822)

Someone mod this karma whore down. There's nothing informative about posting a link to a company mentioned in the blurb...

boobies! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797798)

can you imagine the amount of anime porn i can into that thing? SCHWEET!!

impressive (5, Funny)

Hellasboy (120979) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797852)

i'm impressed... 25 dvds for 1 terabit. but i think were all holding out until we hit 150 zip disks on a square centimeter or 172 ls-120's on the size of a heineken bottle cap.

Re:impressive (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797930)

172 ls-120's on the size of a heineken bottle cap.

You're right, I'd rather drink a single cold one than eat 172 LS-120 disks...

Re:impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797978)

Hah, I love that .sig; I've got a dog, and I know EXACTLY what you're talking about.

Re:impressive (0)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797983)

I have an SD card which is about 1/2" sq and stores 1GB. 2GB cards are available but fairly expensive at the moment. Or, you could look at Compact Flash cards which are about 1" sq, and you see 8GB cards available to those who can afford them.

The jump from there to 128GB which is what this article is promising isn't really too radical.

impressive-Trilevel storage. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798122)

Radical would be dumping the binary numbering system. Both for computing, and storage.

Issues untold yet (4, Interesting)

karvind (833059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797853)

(a) Reliability: No words about how reliable the system and elements are. It is one thing to make a 1M by 1M array and another to make bigger. Silicon semiconductor industry is lot more mature in transferring electronic processes. MEMS process still have low yield and haven't found commercial success yet (except the accelerometers used in air bags etc).

(b) Testing: How are they going to test this trillion element chip ? Testing complexity grows exponential with number of elements and it will require serious consideration. It may be worthwhile to make smaller components which can be tested easily (modern chips has one-third cost devoted to testing)

(c) Redundancy: Is this process going to give more yield than conventional electronic processes ? If no, common technique of redundancy has to be utilized. This brings in the cost in terms of power, speed and delay. For example if the yield is only 90%, that means you will need ~110% resources. Not only you have to make up for the defective components, you will have to provide lot more redundancy for testing. At some point it becomes worthless as the performance will drop to floor.

But still it is a good work and perhaps will generate some new ideas.

Re:Issues untold yet (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797909)

(a) Reliability: No words about how reliable the system and elements are ...
(b) Testing: How are they going to test this trillion element chip ? ...
(c) Redundancy: Is this process going to give more yield than conventional electronic processes ?


Do you understand the definition of a prototype?

I'm sure all your questions will be answered in due time, in 5 or 10 years when the device hits the street.

Re:Issues untold yet (2, Interesting)

karvind (833059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797963)

I don't want to flame you, but I would take a scientific/engineering approach rather than accepting opinion from a wall-street magazine. It would be worthwhile to follow the bubble burst of the MEMS technology in the recent 4-5 years. Even after 10 years of work, MEMS elements have serious issues in packaging. Intel withdrew their MEMS program as it doesn't have enough yield. So just making prototype is not the end of the story.

As an engineer you have to take things with a pinch of salt. Every scientific idea may not be technologically feasible. In the end economics determine if the product will even hit the market or not. Nanotechnology is not cheap, so it is worthwhile consideration to see if it is even possible to tackle the important issues rather than hoping someone else will do it.

Re:Issues untold yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798266)

I don't want to flame you either, but I think it's a little harsh to call MEMS a bust. TI seems to be pretty happy by marketing the MEMS chips behind DLP projectors, many hdtvs, etc; the inkjet printhead folks seem to be pretty happy with MEMS as well; you did point out airbag sensors, but Analog Devices is making accelerometers for video games as well; Motorola (now Freescale) is making lots of automotive MEMS pressure sensors; Cepheid has anthrax sensors in post offices; the list is actually pretty long...

Just because Intel couldn't make it work doesn't mean it's no good.

P.S. As an engineer myself, it's hard to admit this, but the Wall Street boys usually have the last say. Most of the 'bubble burst' in optical MEMS was actually not failure of the technology, but collateral damage of the telecom collapse.

Dense but slow? (0)

M0RBO (734239) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797871)

So do you read the bits with an Atomic Force Microscope [wikipedia.org] ? Sure it holds a terabit, but not useful if it takes a multi-million dollar machine and a decade to read/write that much. /didn't RTFA

1terabit != 1 terabyte (1)

soundproofing.noise (849071) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797879)

1 tera a bit is roughly 25DVD's?

Re:1terabit != 1 terabyte (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797883)

Let me introduce you to the word "redundant"...

ATM or AFM? (3, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797881)

From the article it is hard to tell what they are taking about. IBM used an atomic tunnelling microscope, a reltively complicated piece of equipment that relies on the fact that quantum particles can tunnel through a potential, to move that atoms. The ATM can either be used to create a atomic scale picture of a surface, or move atoms. An atomic force microscope is simply a physical hammer that gently taps a surface and through the change in deflection creates an image. The tip on an ATM is currently so fragile I don't think it could be used to move atoms. The lifetime of a tip is pretty short just becuase of wear, and their is not way to reliable create good tips.

So we must assume they are talking about an ATM, which a largish and complicated peice of equipment. It requires a piezoelctric device to move the tip to the proper placed on the substrate. For years, such devics kept cell phones large. The ATM requires a highly senstive feeback loop to keep the current constant. And is still requires a very delicae tip that can be easily damaged. Durable tips are probably years away and involve carbon nanotubes. Tips that have a lifetime more than a few months are probably even longer away.

It is a neat idea and probably works well in the laboratory on a vibration cancelation table. How would it work on a portable in the train or in the car? Does anyone have any real details on the technology?

AFM (5, Informative)

DaleBob (676487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798226)

The IBM Millipede project doesn't use tunneling microscope technology (ATM, or usually STM). It uses a modified AFM tip that can be resistively heated. The hot tip pushes into a polymer surface and creates a hole. The hole can be "erased" by heating close to the surface and the region around the hole melts and fills it in. The reading is done with cold tips using regular AFM technology.

Checksums (3, Funny)

LaCosaNostradamus (630659) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797886)

25 DVDs on a chip the size of a postage stamp

Well, not with the software overhead in various checksums that will be had in 2010:
  • MPAA/RIAA field (the "copy checksum")
  • Dept. of Homeland Security header (the "red checksum")
  • UN Standards bit (the "blue checksum")
  • .SUM (the "Microsoft checksum")
Those are apt to take up quite a bit of space. So maybe you'll get 15 DVDs (maybe 20 by paying Microsoft an expansion fee) on that postage stamp.

Multiple Read/Write ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11797889)

Is this a mutiple write drive? I could not find that in the article. I have been told that a single write device at molecular level is easier to construct than a mutiple write device.

By the way, here is a link to an EE Times article on 200GByte disk Hitachi develops 200GB holographic disk [nyud.net] . Linear dimension = 5inches. {Remember: 1 terabit ~ 125GB}

I have also read some articles on Quantum Dots being used to store data. Typically, they are about 20nm in size and will store 1-bit (yeah, the evil one!) each. That would get translated to 10^14 bits per sq in! Let's see where this thing goes in a few years.

ionbheem!
--

And thats just 2-dimensional (3, Interesting)

mnmn (145599) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797890)

Some earlier stories were mentioning stacking layers of memory to increase it. So considering structural, voltage, data and addressing layers as well, how much data can we store in a 1 inch cube?

Whatever that number, we'll still be running out of space since Windows 2050 will take 1/3rd of that space and games+movies the remaining 2/3rd.

Re:And thats just 2-dimensional (1)

gnuman99 (746007) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798099)

1 in cube would be 1e12^(3/2)bits or 1e18 bits. That is 1 exabit or 1Eb.

Re:And thats just 2-dimensional (1)

captain igor (657633) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798156)

Good luck removing heat from a 3D structure easily. That's the principle reason we don't have processing cubes instead of chips in our computers.

how big is a postage stamp? (0, Troll)

soundproofing.noise (849071) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797918)

Is that a US postage stamp. or some other stamp? how will the postal service be using this technology?

Re:how big is a postage stamp? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798161)

Well, on the plus side since all you'll have to send is the stamp there won't be anything to lick.

Fastest Transfer Rate (5, Funny)

ryanmfw (774163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797920)

So, if we attached a couple square inches of this stuff to a pigeon, or filled a 747 with some of these chips, and flew it around the world, how fast would the transfer rate be?

Re:Fastest Transfer Rate (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797981)

So, if we attached a couple square inches of this stuff to a pigeon, or filled a 747 with some of these chips, and flew it around the world, how fast would the transfer rate be?

I know you're trying to be funny but...

What most people really look for in electronic communication networks is not transfer rate but good latency: if I can "download" the entire library of Congress by having it Fedexed to be in a big box full of disks, but I have to wait 3 weeks for the snail mail request to reach the LoC, the guys to package everything up and the box to reach me eventually, I may be better off downloading the LoC on a slower link that answers immediately.

Re:Fastest Transfer Rate (1)

Ziviyr (95582) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798476)

So how fast is 0.000000551 LoC/sec? :-)

Impressive... (1)

Matilda the Hun (861460) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797926)

...So how long before we start seeing those Brainboxes from 3001?

Don't hold out for them (2, Interesting)

iammaxus (683241) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797931)

These arrays can record up to one trillion bits of data -- known as a terabit -- in a single square inch. That's the storage density that magnetic hard disk drive makers hope to achieve by 2010.

I'd be really surprised if we see this technology on the shelf in anything close to 5 years from now.

Re:Don't hold out for them (1)

spankey51 (804888) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798869)

Agreed...
It is in my oppinion that industry is very self regulating. We will have to ease slowely toward memory like this. I imagine one could buy something congruent to this technology today, but it would be prohibitively expensive. We hear "breaking news" about technologies like this so often... It barely phases me anymore.

The governing factor in the success of these cutting edge devices is consumer driven supply and demand. No doubt, there will be use for this level of storage density; the form factor is provocative, just like MiniDisk was. It seems that more often than not, these sort of inventions just disappear over time... overshadowed by properly marketed technologies, like CDs.

In any case, I imagine it will take quite a while before something like this becomes a mainstream medium. Not to lean too far left, but we do have to consider the MPAAs timeframe in figuring out what to put on a disk that can hold the genome of 1-200 species. They'll need to up with something like Ultra High Definition digital video to combine with their already outrageous levels of "deleted scenes" and "special features."
And what's the RIAA going to do? They sure won't throw half the world's available music on a postage stamp and sell it for $16.95! Nono... time for a new format: audio recording frequencies 2 Ghz above that which is discernable to the human ear in .WAV, with a two Gigabyte security tag.

Google (2, Informative)

blcknight (705826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797943)

http://www.google.com/search?q=1+terabit+in+gigaby tes 1 terabit is 128 gigabytes. That is the definitive answer from google. It's not 116, not 125.

Re:Google (1)

Unnngh! (731758) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798067)

Yep...the poster you are correcting probably made the mistake of thinking that 1 terabit = 1 trillion bits; still have to count those in powers of 2, as well. 1 kilobit = 1024 bits, etc.

What happened to Millipede? (3, Interesting)

DaleBob (676487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797947)

There was an article written (I believe by researchers from IBM) in Scientific American about two years ago regarding Millipede that said they expected technology to come to market in 3 years. Now the article from the post suggests the project is all but dead. What happened? I'm too lazy to actually look at the patents, but it isn't clear at all how this new technology actually differs from Millipede. I'd guess the write and erase mechanisms are different.

A square inch! (3, Funny)

NaruVonWilkins (844204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11797949)

My god, it's two dimensional! Our memory limitations are over!

Such products are a godsend (4, Interesting)

danila (69889) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798019)

It's amazing how lucky these chip manufacturers are. Imagine to what lengths people need to go in other industries in order to convince customers to upgrade. If all you are selling is a damn chocolate bar, there is only so much that you can do to improve it. They had perfectly edible chocolate bars 100 years ago and there isn't much besides slapping "10% free" on the package that you can do. Ditto for things like headphones, ballpoint pens and pretty much everything else.

But the manufacturers of memory chips, hard disks, even CPUs, have it really easy. All they need to do is solve the technological problem of doubling the capacity/performance and the customer is eager to shell out some $$$ to get the new version. No focus groups are needed, no expensive marketing surveys. The only thing you need to do to please the customer is basically improve the obvious performance metric by 100%. You don't need to lie and twist the facts as those guys in cosmetics do with "73% more volume" for your eyelashes or "54% healthier hair" bullshit. You just make your CPU twice as fast and that flash chip twice as large, and you are done.

And if you really want to, you can say it will make Internet faster, or something...

Re:Such products are a godsend (1)

Ziviyr (95582) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798432)

It's amazing how lucky these chip manufacturers are. Imagine to what lengths people need to go in other industries in order to convince customers to upgrade. If all you are selling is a damn chocolate bar, there is only so much that you can do to improve it.

Theres alot of room to improve ona chocolate bar after you've been using it for a couple years.

I'd personally advise only consuming them then once, then buying a new one when I wanted to use it again.

Re:Such products are a godsend (1)

Woy (606550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798778)

"Imagine to what lengths people need to go in other industries in order to convince customers to upgrade. If all you are selling is a damn chocolate bar, there is only so much that you can do to improve it."

Actually, its much easier to sell more chocolate bars, since they are consumed on use, than chips, that can last a few years.

terabit != one trillion bits. (-1, Redundant)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798037)

one trillion bits of data -- known as a terabit
Where do these people learn their math?

one trillion bits * (1/1.024)**4 = 0.90947 terabits

Using more widely used measurements, they're looking at 116.5 gigabytes per square inch, or 18.0 gigabytes per square centimeter.

Re:terabit != one trillion bits. (1)

bohnsack (2301) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798225)

Where do these people learn their math?

Where did you learn your math? One trillion X is, by definition, a terra X.

See here [slashdot.org] and here [slashdot.org]

Punching holes in polymer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798051)

How could this ever replace magnetic hard drives if the chip "punches holes" into something to represent 1 or 0? Sounds like there would be "moving parts", and how do the holes "heal" in order to change the state?

Re:Punching holes in polymer? (1)

DaleBob (676487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798273)

It's not clear how this new technology is different from the IBM Millipede project, but Millipede took a heated atomic froce microscope (AFM) tip and stuck it into a polymer substrate to form the hole. The holes are erased by heating the surface surrounding the hole until melting happens and the hole just fills in as surface tension makes it flat again. This hole punching and erasing using heating happens really fast since the size scales are so small. Although I'd imagine the write speed is slower than a hard drive or flash memory.

comparison to core memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798080)

1 terabit of core memory == 1 square mile
1 terabit this stuff == 1 square inch

a summary of the article (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798090)

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vaporware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798116)

This is, by my count, the 1,0131st story in slashdot that has enthusiastically described a radical new storage technology, not one of which as ever gone into production.

On ebay yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798158)

How come it isn't on ebay yet? Geeez, how long will I have to wait? Oh, the humanity!

OK! ENOUGH BULLSHIT NUMBERS!!! (5, Funny)

gozu (541069) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798228)

We don't measure HDs in Terabits . 1 Tbit = 128 GBytes or 128 gigs3

Second, converting this from inches to Centimeters, we get slightly less than 20GB/cm^2

Yes ladies and gentlemen, 20 Gigs per Squared centimeters.

That's a nice increase but it sure as hell isn't overwhelming.

Assuming a radius of 5 cm for a 3.5" HD, we get a surface of 80 cm^2 per platter. That comes to 800 Gb per platter. around 8 times the current density.

These new-gen HDs will be at most 8 times bigger than those we have right now.

That's it. 8 times. Not even a single order of magnitude.

Now mod this up or be destroyed!

Re:OK! ENOUGH BULLSHIT NUMBERS!!! (1)

Ziviyr (95582) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798398)

And I don't assume they had error correction overhead raining on their parade either...

It does tick me off when someone measures really big sizes in bits. Especially on devices that manipulate data in blocks that are 16384 times the size of the chosen metric.

Measuring network speeds in bits is also rather irritating.

And I'll try not to get started on when people insist on using decimal reasoning with binary data size calculations. (anyone want my old 134.217728 megabyte stick of ram?)

What size is the prototype? (4, Insightful)

spworley (121031) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798292)

The article says they have working prototypes. Of what? The implication is that it's a device that's a square inch in size, and it holds a terabit of data. But from the usage of "square inch" I think the reality may mean a density of 1 terabit per square inch, not that they have a terabit device. (I hope I'm wrong!). For example, they may have a prototype that stores 1000 bits in an area of a billionth of a square inch. That's a lot different than an actual terabit device! I wish articles had more details...

At the end of my nose... (4, Funny)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798411)

...there is a single atom. Orbiting it is an electron. When it's in a spin up state I consider it to contain a 1. When spin down it's a zero. There: a prototype of a multi exaterapetabit/mm^3 storage device at the end of my nose. Oh wait - I might be able to hype this up more. Oh yes...it's an electron, so it's in a superposition state. It's a multi exapetaterabyte/mm^3 quantum computer at the end of my nose. Surely /. have got to publish this story now.

What's with Nantero?? (3, Insightful)

luwain (66565) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798454)

Prototype Arrays of Atomic Force Probes?? Is this real technology? I wonder is the talk of a real product by 2007 is credible, or just marketing to attract venture capital. I'm still waiting for products based on NRAM (made up of arrays of carbon nantubes) from Nantero (nantero.com). I wonder if "atomic force probes" are easier to manufacture than "arrays of carbon nanotubes"? Will Nanochip beat Nantero to the marketplace, or will they just burn through venture capital and next year we'll hear about another "Nano-'something'" company with some other "revolutionary technology" that's going to produce a marketable product "real soon now".

when will we see consumer devices? (1)

kobaz (107760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798483)

About 5 years ago there was a story just like this on slashdot that was making all the commotion. The claim was three dimensional non-volatile memory and the capacity was 660gigs per cubic cm. So far I haven't heard anything since the slashdot story 5 years ago.

It would be nice to actually be able to buy this technology that always seems to be "about to come out". It would also be nice to be at a price comparable to current consumor storage devices.

For now we will still be stuck with the bottleneck of bottlenecks, the spinning harddrive based on technology that was thought up somewhere around the 1960s (or was it even the 50s?).

Why go tera, when you can go peta? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11798727)

If you really want high memory density, and you don't mind using some form of scanning probe microscope for readout, there's a nutty proposal to use silicon surface dimers (http://jdj.mit.edu/atoms/dimer-stm.html). The silicon (001) surface reconstructs so the top layer atoms pair up to form two-atom dimers, and each dimer has two possible configurations -- either tilted one way or the other. The state of each dimer can be read, and more importantly written, with the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope (rather than an atomic force microscope like the article talks about).

Storage capacity? Well, each dimer is about 4 by 8 angstroms, so we're talking 3.2e18 bits per square metre, or approximately 2 petabits per square inch.

There's just a few technical difficulties, I guess. Firstly, you need to keep the whole system pretty close to absolute zero or the silicon dimers start thermally flipping, erasing your data. Secondly, you need to keep it under ultra-high-vacuum conditions, which means your system will probably be the size of a room and need a UHV expert to operate it. Thirdly, it'll be insanely slow, capable of writing a few bits per second if you're lucky. And finally, an ultra-low temperature ultra-high vacuum scanning tunneling microscope with atomic resolution will probably set you back quite a few million bucks.

Still, it's interesting in that it gives you an estimate of what the ultimate physical limits of two-dimensional data storage density are likely to be. Realistically you'll always need quite a few atoms per bit for any system you want to operate at room temperature.

Yeah, but ... (3, Funny)

elronxenu (117773) | more than 9 years ago | (#11798884)

They didn't explain how many volkswagons per metric second.
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