Film promises terabit storage

February 25/March 3, 2004

Scientists are looking to cram more information in a given area by finding ways to store the 1s and 0s of computer information in single molecules.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have taken a step in this direction by synthesizing an organic material, spreading it into a molecule-thick layer, and recording marks as small as 1.1 nanometers in the medium. The presence of a mark can represent a 1 and the absence of a mark, 0. Each mark is about the size of a row of 11 hydrogen atoms.

The 1.1-nanometer marks, spaced 1.5 nanometers apart, would yield a data storage density of more than 10 trillion bits per square centimeter, according to the researchers. Ten trillion bits is the equivalent of 266 DVDs worth of data.

The researchers previously had recorded marks as small as 0.6 nanometers in an organic thin film, but that material wasn't as readily controlled or as stable as the current material, according to the researchers. The researchers' new material is stable in air, and has a higher melting point -- 172 Celsius -- than the researchers' previous recording medium.

It will be one or two decades before the material can be used in practical storage devices, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the November 17, 2003 issue of Advanced Materials.

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