IBM scientists have demonstrated a data storage density of a trillion bits per square inch, which is said to be 20 times higher than the densest magnetic storage available today.
IBM achieved this data storage milestone – enough to store 25 million printed textbook pages on a surface the size of a postage stamp – in a research project code-named ‘Millipede’.
Rather than using traditional magnetic or electronic means to store data, Millipede reportedly uses thousands of nano-sharp tips to punch indentations representing individual bits into a thin plastic film.
The result is akin to a nanotech version of the data processing ‘punch card’, but with two crucial differences: the ‘Millipede’ technology is re-writeable and may be able to store more than 3 billion bits of data in the space occupied by just one hole in a standard punch card.
‘While current storage technologies may be approaching their fundamental limits, this nanomechanical approach is potentially valid for a thousand-fold increase in data storage density,’ said Nobel laureate Gerd Binnig, one of the drivers of the Millipede project.
The terabit demonstration is said to have employed a single ‘nano-tip’ making indentations only 10 nanometers in diameter. While the concept has been proven with an experimental set-up using more than 1,000 tips, the research team is now building a prototype, which deploys more than 4,000 tips working simultaneously over a 7 mm-square field.
Such dimensions would enable a complete high-capacity data storage system to be packed into the smallest format used now for flash memory.
While flash memory is not expected to surpass 1-2 gigabytes of capacity in the near future, Millipede technology could pack 10 – 15 gigabytes of data into the same tiny format, without requiring more power for device operation.