Self-Organizing Nanotech Could Store 250 DVDs on One Coin-Size Surface

By Rachel Cernansky | February 22, 2009 12:55 pm

sapphire1.jpgSapphire crystals may be the next material to transform the electronics industry, thanks to nanotechnology researchers who have announced a new way of storing data that would fit the contents of 250 DVDs on a coin-sized surface. The study, published in Science, illustrates how nanoscale elements can organize themselves over a large sheet of semiconductor film. The researchers expect that when applied to electronic media, their discovery will improve the efficiency of data storage, savings which can then be transferred to improve other pieces of electronics besides just storage, like high-definition screens and solar cells.

Similar attempts have previously been made to improve data storage on semiconductor films, but have consistently failed because the polymers—which are known to link together, on their own, in precise patterns—lose their organized structure when the film being used increases in area, rendering them useless for storing memory. Lead researchers Ting Xu from the University of California at Berkeley and Thomas Russell from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst overcame this by layering the film of block copolymers onto the surface of a commercially available sapphire crystal. When the crystal is cut at an angle—a common procedure known as a miscut—and heated to 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Centigrade (2,372 to 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit) for 24 hours, its surface reorganizes into a highly ordered pattern of sawtooth ridges that can then be used to guide the self-assembly of the block polymers [Science Daily].

With this technique, the only limit to the size of an array of block copolymers is the size of the sapphire, Xu said. Once a sapphire is heated up and the pattern is created, the template could be reused. Both the crystals and the polymer chains could be obtained commercially, Xu said [PC World]. The researchers say the technology could make nearly perfect arrays of semiconductor material that are about 15 times denser than anything achieved previously [Reuters].

Using the technology, it might also be possible to achieve a high-definition picture with 3-nanometer pixels, potentially as large as a stadium JumboTron, Xu said. Another possibility is more dense photovoltaic cells that capture the sun’s energy more efficiently…. The new technology could create chip features just 3nm [nanometers] across, far outstripping current microprocessor manufacturing techniques, which at their best create features about 45nm across [PC World].

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Image: Wikimedia

  • Uncle Al

    Directional solidification (not Verneuil) of aluminum oxide obtains single crystal boules 30 cm in diameter and larger.

    According to the Sunday 22 February 2009 Los Angeles Times, p. 1, ” 20% in LA County Receive Public Aid” – set to skyrocket – at a cost exceeding $4 billion/year. Suppose that money supported research rather than parasites. You’d get more open palms either way, admittedly with much of the money burned to ashes in both cases, but look at the different net residuals.

  • nick

    Oh god, I’ve been hoping for smaller pixels for-fucking-ever. I’m tired of being able to see pixel edges unless they’ve been software anti-aliased to look like they’re not big bricks by coloring the pixels near them. (In windows turn ClearType on and off to see what I mean on fonts).

    And realistically, the pixels we have now are at the edges of human visual perception (0.1 mm), so all we’d need to do is shrink them by 2 or 3 times and we’d never see a pixel again without a magnifying device.

  • nick

    Now that I think about it, 3nm pixels would be down right hallucinatory, or at least illusion-capable of some sort, possible even holographic – the wavelength of visible light starts around 400nm and goes to around 7~800nm. That’s minimum of ~100pixels inside the minimum space a single visible light wave would occupy. With rapid (very rapid) asynchronous pulsing of sub-wavelength pixels, possibly pattern-masked (thing of Young’s two-slit experiment) you could create all sorts of interference and diffraction patterns that might make thin, near-field holographic displays possible.

    Another possibility is that we might be able to make electron collector CMOS out of these (though there’s no reason for that in anything but TEM-style electron collection, everything else uses a scanning probe instead of direct beam magnification and viewing), as they are more suited to the wavelength of electrons (.00something nm in wavelength).

  • nick

    Whoops, sorry about the f-bomb in the first comment above. I was a little excited. Please edit that to frackin for the battlestar fans. :)

  • Eximus

    What polymers are we using for data storage?

  • Frank

    nanometer pixel, I never even heard that term. I need to update myself….

  • hobittual

    Uncle Al, you seem like an average American Joe to me. You would do your utmost to make sure no one received any sort of support that you didn’t approve of. Until of course you fell on your ass one day and suddenly needed some help, you would soon change your tune then. It is a case of “I’m ok Jack so f**k you!”
    I bet you see children as parasites, you are representative of all that is bad about the American nation, the bully boys of the world as you are.

  • Marc Anthony

    I need to update myself as well. i have no idea what they are talking about.

  • Meme

    Phhttt… I don’t care. I hear about “breakthroughs” all the time. Where are they? Why have they not been made available? OLED’s have yet to make wide consumer availability, and they’re already baked, tried, and working.

    You know what?! Just give me the damn report when I can go buy it at Newegg and have it fit in my motherboard. Otherwise it’s a fart in the wind.

  • Rob

    for Pete’s sake Meme, remember when a 17″ LCD monitor(NOT widescreen) was over $300?. Less than 7 years ago! Today you can get a 55″ LCD TV because they’re improving efficiency

  • Meme

    Believe me, I know. I’m not saying these “breakthroughs” don’t help make our products better, cheaper, faster, etc. It’s just frustrating how slow it is from discovery to market.

  • http://sadasdasasd zxczx

    man this is incredible how fast technology improves

  • kevin

    “Believe me, I know. I’m not saying these “breakthroughs” don’t help make our products better, cheaper, faster, etc. It’s just frustrating how slow it is from discovery to market.”

    We have seen more technological gains in the last 10 years than past generations see in a lifetime.

  • Meme

    I’d reserve that. A lot, most of, our “discoveries” have been based in silicon. Computers have helped. Sure, there’s been a lot of improvements in the last 10 years. But in the last 20 years, we are still using DRAM, CPU’s, GPU’s, and hard drives. We’re still programming in archaic computing languages.

    We need a game changer much like what silicon has done. I don’t see that.

  • GoJoe

    A car still costs more than you can afford to pay at one time, rides on 4 wheels and uses gas … over 100 years later.

    Lose a kidney, and you still have no artificial replacement, even with dialysis now over 45 years old.

    Sure there are improvements in information and communication, but is medicine, crime, transportation, farming, electric power distribution, space travel or food distribution any better than in the 80’s?

    Show me a “wow” in something other than electronics and communications … and that doesn’t blow people up, and I will truly think life is changing.

    Lot’s of change 1930 to 1970 … but is it so much different 1970 to 2010, really?

  • mike

    AMD+IBM+Final stages.

  • v66

    Kevin says “We have seen more technological gains in the last 10 years than past generations see in a lifetime.”

    It’s all of the inventions we didn’t see that are the real revolutionary inventions; the ones that were sandbagged, suppressed, etc.

    This sapphire tech may start to trickle into the consumer market in about 10 years or so.

    Presently, Sony and their cohorts (Hollywood, etc.) wouldn’t allow anything to shut out their precious Blu-ray. It CAN be suppressed.

  • http://cQAUIZdIlj Anton


  • Shane

    Meme: Breakthroughs require funding, and this requires getting the word out. You live in a world of self-organization. Information does not necessarily come in the optimal order. Just because a breakthrough is made does not mean it will get the support it needs. Simply building a better mousetrap doesn’t mean anyone will use it. There are a lot of factors to bringing something to market, so this is part of why you never see some of the products that you hear about.

  • Rascal King

    Go Joe: “Sure there are improvements in information and communication, but is medicine, crime, transportation, farming, electric power distribution, space travel or food distribution any better than in the 80’s?”

    Personally, I think criminals have gotten a lot faster and more efficient in the last 20 years.

  • Flexible Oled

    I like how flexible OLEDs have a quicker response time than LEDs, it just doesn’t make sense to use LEDs anymore!

  • Frank Goldberg

    I wonder how many DVD’s it would take to store all the information needed to construct the entire human body and all its functions. I’m sure the figure will be mindblowing. But anyhow that’s the amount of information stored in the human egg- and spermcells. Nature slaps the hard facts directly in our faces. It’s possible to store REALLY vast amounts of info in next to nothing ! There is still some way to go :)


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