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Researchers have devised a way to build memory from graphene

Storage in today's computers is based on rotating magnetic platters or flash memory. Both of these mediums work well, provide large amounts of storage and have been around for a while now. Some scientists don’t believe that flash is the future for storage in computers and electronic devices. In fact, the future of storage could be based on something kids use every day at school -- pencil lead or graphite.

A team of researchers at Rice University has found a method of creating a new type of memory from a strip of graphite only 10 atoms thick. Graphite is the basic element in the new type of memory. The scientists describe in a paper published in the online journal Nature Materials a storage device that utilizes the conducting properties of graphene. A large clump of graphene is better known as graphite, something school kids doodle with everyday.

Rice professor James Tour says that graphene memory would increase the amount of storage in a two-dimensional array by about five times. He says that this massive improvement is due to the individual bits being able to be made smaller than 10 nanometers. By comparison, circuitry in your average flash memory chip today is 45nm. Another big benefit of graphene memory is that switches can be controlled by two terminals rather than the three terminals used in flash memory today.

The two-terminal capability is important because it provides the capability to make three-dimensional memory practical since the very thin graphene arrays can be stacked, multiplying the storage capacity of the array with each graphene layer.

Storage arrays using graphene will be mechanical devices at their core and as such, the chips will consume very little power. Much lost power in flash storage comes from leakage; graphene memory will need little power leading to less leakage while keeping data intact. Graphene memory has a massive improvement in on-off power ratio compared to current memory technologies.

Tour said in a statement, "It’s (power savings) huge — a million-to-one. Phase change memory, the other thing the industry is considering, runs at 10-to-1. That means the ‘off’ state holds, say, one-tenth the amount of electrical current than the ‘on’ state."

Tour explains that current tends to leak from an off that is holding a charge. He says, "That means in a 10-by-10 grid, 10 ‘offs’ would leak enough to look like they were ‘on.’ With our method, it would take a million ‘offs’ in a line to look like ‘on'. So this is big. It allows us to make a much larger array.”

Another benefit of graphene as a storage medium is that while it puts off little heat, it is able to operate in a very wide temperature range. The researchers have tested the system to minus 75 to over 200 degrees Celsius.

Performance of graphene-based systems is impressive, the researchers say that the new switches are faster than the lab's testing equipment can measure and they promise long life as well. "We’ve tested it in the lab 20,000 times with no degradation,” said Tour. “Its lifetime is going to be huge, much better than flash memory."

The processes uses graphene deposited on silicon via chemical vapor deposition making for easy construction that can be done in commercial volumes with methods already available says Tour.

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RE: Mechanical devices are for kids to...
By darkfoon on 12/19/2008 6:55:06 PM , Rating: 2
Show some actual stats or you are pulling it out of your ass.

It's common sense. A flash chip has a set number of writes before it will fail. A magnetic harddrive will write until it mechanically fails. For example: I have a flash drive (not an SSD) that has 20 megabytes dead on it. I have written and deleted so much data in the 2 years I've owned it that 20 megabytes worth of it's storage capacity is broken. Compare that to the harddrive I've had in my computer since 2000 which doesn't have a single bad sector and I have written many more times the data to it than the dinky flash drive.
Granted bathtub curves factor into this. Most harddrives don't last that long. I consider myself lucky. But the fact remains that over the same amount of time, I could write and delete data on my harddrive many times more than I could to a flash drive. I am leaving reads out of this comparison because they do not wear out flash.

Also, heat isn't as much as a factor as you think it is. Several months ago there was an article on Dailytech about research done at a University that suggests heat has very little to do with the life-expectancy of a harddrive.

I am not supporting your position nor am I denying it. Yes, mechanical harddrives will be eventually replaced... When the prices can be affordable for average individuals. DVD was available YEARS before it became common. But DVD players cost $10,000 dollars and DVDs were certainly quite expensive. But consumers went along happily with VHS until DVD came down in price.
I imagine that mechanical harddisks may eventually take the place of tape-based storage in the future. Harddrives can hold more than tape, and if left powered off and are protected from elements, they will survive longer given that they don't need to be unwound/rewound like tape to keep the tape from becoming brittle. Also, I've never heard of a rat chewing a harddrive, but I did work for a business that, at a critical moment in time, discovered they had a rat problem when they went to restore a tape backup and found it destroyed.
The only thing tape has for it, is that tapes are cheap to manufacture.

By Fritzr on 12/19/2008 9:32:16 PM , Rating: 2
Adding to the argument against "let it go" ... Holographic drives with capacities starting at 300GB per disc and scheduled to go to at least 1.6TB per disc are available to buy today. Given that they are on the market, then it is time to let CD, DVD & BluRay go the way of the 8" floppy. After all everyone can afford an $18,000 optical drive that is the future of storage, snd the older formats are now obsolete.

Or perhaps we can let this much larger storage per disk, with greater stability of media, rest for a while longer while we still use dinky 50GB-200GB per disk DVD variants or, for us Stone Age geeks, DVDs and CDs for backup and USB flash drives as floppy replacements.

Holographic Versatile Disk (HVD) standard approved June 28, 2007 with possible 3.9TB disks as part of the standard.
(not yet available though)
Wiki entry

Inphase Holographic Storage Planned to go to 1.6TB over the next 3 to 4 years
Wiki entry
ZDNet article & video (April '08)
Where to buy your InPhase 300r 300GB Holographic Disk Drive today!!! (Pricing may vary ... the $18,000 was April '08)

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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