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Super-Dense Data Stores Cool Down


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Super-dense "millipede"-style data storage systems could be enabled to function at room temperature with the development of a material that becomes soft when placed under pressure — a baroplastic — by engineers at Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology.

Millipede storage systems employ a sharp needle to etch data as a series of nanoscale pits in a tough polymer surface, and they read the data back by using the same needle to feel for what has been written. Punching a hole in the polymer requires a lot of heat, which consumes so much power that probe data storage is unaffordable, says Pohang University's Jin Kon Kim.

Kim's team designed a baroplastic that becomes soft at much lower pressure than earlier baroplastics, and they have demonstrated that the end of an atomic force microscope can etch the kind of tiny pits that store data in millipede-like systems by pressing on the new material. The probe tip also can read out the pits without altering them, through the application of lighter pressure. "The forces needed are relatively high, and this is likely to lead to tip wear issues," says University of Exeter's David Wright.

Wright coordinates the pan-European Protem project, and says that the initiative has made progress with the development of new bilayer materials. "These combine a hard polymer skin just a few nanometers thick with a softer layer — for example, polystyrene — beneath," Wright says. "It combines the softness you want [to avoid damaging the probe tip and for fast writing speeds] with the thermal stability necessary for long data lifetimes."

From New Scientist
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