David Kirkpatrick

May 2, 2010

A library on a chip …

through nanotech.

The release:

Nanodots Breakthrough May Lead To ‘A Library On One Chip’

A researcher at North Carolina State University has developed a computer chip that can store an unprecedented amount of data – enough to hold an entire library’s worth of information on a single chip. The new chip stems from a breakthrough in the use of nanodots, or nanoscale magnets, and represents a significant advance in computer-memory technology.

“We have created magnetic nanodots that store one bit of information on each nanodot, allowing us to store over one billion pages of information in a chip that is one square inch,” says Dr. Jay Narayan, the John C. Fan Distinguished Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State and author of the research.

The breakthrough is that these nanodots are made of single, defect-free crystals, creating magnetic sensors that are integrated directly into a silicon electronic chip. These nanodots, which can be made uniformly as small as six nanometers in diameter, are all precisely oriented in the same way – allowing programmers to reliably read and write data to the chips.

The chips themselves can be manufactured cost-effectively, but the next step is to develop magnetic packaging that will enable users to take advantage of the chips – using something, such as laser technology, that can effectively interact with the nanodots.

The research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, was presented as an invited talk April 7 at the 2011 Materials Research Society Spring Meeting in San Francisco.

NC State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering is part of the university’s College of Engineering.

February 16, 2010

1TB solid state drive on a postage stamp

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:47 am

Well not really on a postage stamp, but really that small. Let’s review: one terabyte solid state drive packed into around a square inch of real estate. This definitely fall into the “I’ll really believe it when I see it on store shelves and installed on motherboards,” but man this is one data storage breakthrough. For the record Toshiba thinks these will be on the market in two years.

From the link:

A team of Japanese researchers from Toshiba and the Keio University in Tokyo, led by Professor Tadahiro Kuroda, claims to have developed a technique that will reduce the size of SSDs by around 90 per cent. Not only that, but the technology also increases their  by 70 per cent and makes them cheaper to manufacture.

February 12, 2010

Nanoparticles, optics and electricity

(Number one of two posts on nanotechnology and electricity. Hit this link for part two)

This sounds like a tech with a range of applications.

The release:

Penn material scientists turn light into electrical current using a golden nanoscale system

IMAGE: Material scientists at the Nano/Bio Interface Center of the University of Pennsylvania have demonstrated the transduction of optical radiation to electrical current in a molecular circuit.

Click here for more information.

PHILADELPHIA –- Material scientists at the Nano/Bio Interface Center of the University of Pennsylvania have demonstrated the transduction of optical radiation to electrical current in a molecular circuit. The system, an array of nano-sized molecules of gold, respond to electromagnetic waves by creating surface plasmons that induce and project electrical current across molecules, similar to that of photovoltaic solar cells.

The results may provide a technological approach for higher efficiency energy harvesting with a nano-sized circuit that can power itself, potentially through sunlight. Recently, surface plasmons have been engineered into a variety of light-activated devices such as biosensors.

It is also possible that the system could be used for computer data storage. While the traditional computer processor represents data in binary form, either on or off, a computer that used such photovoltaic circuits could store data corresponding to wavelengths of light.

Because molecular compounds exhibit a wide range of optical and electrical properties, the strategies for fabrication, testing and analysis elucidated in this study can form the basis of a new set of devices in which plasmon-controlled electrical properties of single molecules could be designed with wide implications to plasmonic circuits and optoelectronic and energy-harvesting devices.

Dawn Bonnell, a professor of materials science and the director of the Nano/Bio Interface Center at Penn, and colleagues fabricated an array of light sensitive, gold nanoparticles, linking them on a glass substrate. Minimizing the space between the nanoparticles to an optimal distance, researchers used optical radiation to excite conductive electrons, called plasmons, to ride the surface of the gold nanoparticles and focus light to the junction where the molecules are connected. The plasmon effect increases the efficiency of current production in the molecule by a factor of 400 to 2000 percent, which can then be transported through the network to the outside world.

In the case where the optical radiation excites a surface plasmon and the nanoparticles are optimally coupled, a large electromagnetic field is established between the particles and captured by gold nanoparticles. The particles then couple to one another, forming a percolative path across opposing electrodes. The size, shape and separation can be tailored to engineer the region of focused light. When the size, shape and separation of the particles are optimized to produce a “resonant” optical antennae, enhancement factors of thousands might result.

Furthermore, the team demonstrated that the magnitude of the photoconductivity of the plasmon-coupled nanoparticles can be tuned independently of the optical characteristics of the molecule, a result that has significant implications for future nanoscale optoelectronic devices.

“If the efficiency of the system could be scaled up without any additional, unforeseen limitations, we could conceivably manufacture a one-amp, one-volt sample the diameter of a human hair and an inch long,” Bonnell said.


The study, published in the current issue of the journal ACS Nano, was conducted by Bonnell, David Conklin and Sanjini Nanayakkara of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Penn; Tae-Hong Park of the Department of Chemistry in the School of Arts and Sceicnes at Penn; Parag Banerjee of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland; and Michael J. Therien of the Department of Chemistry at Duke University.

This work was supported by the Nano/Bio Interface Center, National Science Foundation, the John and Maureen Hendricks Energy Fellowship and the U.S. Department of Energy.

October 1, 2009

Cloud computing and security

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:16 pm

An interesting overview from Bill Brenner at CIO.com.

From the link, the conclusion:

Having said that, I also agree with Mike Versace that we should offer some basic approaches that ease the learning curve and ask some basic questions. The approach that I’ve been using is what I coined RAIN, which is just a plain old tried-and-true planning and analysis approach with emphasis on interfacing.

  • (R)equirement: understand your business requirements, and derive technical, non-technical, regulatory and security requirements.
  • (A)nalysis: from your requirements, analyze what tasks or services you want to or can outsource, and clearly define which party is responsible for which tasks, to reduce confusion and conflict later; perform risk analysis, especially with respect to cloud connectivity, mutli-tenancy, local data privacy regulations (of your providers), and business continuity.
  • (I)nterface: clearly define system and human interfaces. Who and how to contact providers for services or problems? What API or webpages to use and how, what the returned result should look like? The more interfaces/touch points, the higher the risk for breakages or problems.
  • e(N)sure – verify and ensure services are performed according to agreements. (Validate and boundary) Test the results sent from providers to ensure that they are in the correct formats and are what you expected; audit or pen test services; perform practice runs with your providers.

This is nothing new or fancy, but I’ve witnessed light-bulb moments without glassy eyes when I explained cloud computing challenges with this approach.

In more cloud computing news today, here’s Technology Review and CIO.com on Amazon’s cloud services.

September 18, 2009

Data storage breakthrough

Via KurzweilAI.net — A three-fer from today’s newsletter.

Super-dense data stores cool down

New Scientist Tech, Sept. 17, 2009

A material that could allow super-dense (125 gigabytes per square inch) “millipede”-style data storage systems to work at room temperature (and thus be a viable commercial product) has been developed by researchers at Pohang University of Science and Technology in Kyungbuk, Korea.

The system uses a “baroplastic” — a hard polymer that becomes soft when placed under pressure — and the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) to etch the kind of tiny pits that store data.

Read Original Article>>

September 10, 2009

Graphite, data storage and semiconductors

Interesting release from Rice involving graphite and nanotechnology, but not the usual carbon nanotubes, graphene or graphane.

The release:

Graphitic memory techniques advance at Rice

Researchers simplify fabrication of nano storage, chip-design tools

Advances by the Rice University lab of James Tour have brought graphite’s potential as a mass data storage medium a step closer to reality and created the potential for reprogrammable gate arrays that could bring about a revolution in integrated circuit logic design.

In a paper published in the online journal ACS Nano, Tour and postdoctoral associate Alexander Sinitskii show how they’ve used industry-standard lithographic techniques to deposit 10-nanometer stripes of amorphous graphite, the carbon-based, semiconducting material commonly found in pencils, onto silicon. This facilitates the creation of potentially very dense, very stable nonvolatile memory for all kinds of digital devices.

With backing from a major manufacturer of memory chips, Tour and his team have pushed the technology forward in several ways since a paper that appeared last November first described two-terminal graphitic memory. While noting advances in other molecular computing techniques that involve nanotubes or quantum dots, he said none of those have yet proved practical in terms of fabrication.

Not so with this simple-to-deposit graphite. “We’re using chemical vapor deposition and lithography — techniques the industry understands,” said Tour, Rice’s Chao Professor of Chemistry and a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. “That makes this a good alternative to our previous carbon-coated nanocable devices, which perform well but are very difficult to manufacture.”

Graphite makes a good, reliable memory “bit” for reasons that aren’t yet fully understood. The lab found that running a current through a 10-atom-thick layer of graphite creates a complete break in the circuit — literally, a gap in the strip a couple of nanometers wide. Another jolt repairs the break. The process appears to be indefinitely repeatable, which provides addressable ones and zeroes, just like today’s flash memory devices but at a much denser scale.

Graphite’s other advantages were detailed in Tour’s earlier work: the ability to operate with as little as three volts, an astoundingly high on/off ratio (the amount of juice a circuit holds when it’s on, as opposed to off) and the need for only two terminals instead of three, which eliminates a lot of circuitry. It’s also impervious to a wide temperature range and radiation; this makes it suitable for deployment in space and for military uses where exposure to temperature extremes and radiation is a concern.

Tour’s graphite-forming technique is well-suited for other applications in the semiconductor industry. One result of the previous paper is a partnership between the Tour group and NuPGA (for “new programmable gate arrays”), a California company formed around the research to create a new breed of reprogrammable gate arrays that could make the design of all kinds of computer chips easier and cheaper.

The Tour lab and NuPGA, led by industry veteran Zvi Or-Bach (founder of eASIC and Chip Express), have applied for a patent based on vertical arrays of graphite embedded in “vias,” the holes in integrated circuits connecting the different layers of circuitry. When current is applied to a graphite-filled via, the graphite alternately splits and repairs itself (a process also described in the latest paper), just like it does in strip form. Essentially, it becomes an “antifuse,” the basic element of one type of field programmable gate array (FPGA), best described as a blank computer chip that uses software to rewire the hardware.

Currently, antifuse FPGAs can be programmed once. But this graphite approach could allow for the creation of FPGAs that can be reprogrammed at will. Or-Bach said graphite-based FPGAs would start out as blanks, with the graphite elements split. Programmers could “heal” the antifuses at will by applying a voltage, and split them with an even higher voltage.

Such a device would be mighty handy to computer-chip designers, who now spend many millions to create the photolithography mask sets used in chip fabrication. If the design fails, it’s back to square one.

“As a result of that, people are only hesitantly investing in new chip designs,” said Tour. “They stick with the old chip designs and make modifications. FPGAs are chips that have no specific ability, but you use software to program them by interconnecting the circuitry in different ways.”  That way, he said, fabricators don’t need expensive mask sets to try new designs.

“The No. 1 problem in the industry, and one that gives an opportunity for a company like ours, is that the cost of masks keeps moving up as people push semiconductors into future generators,” said Or-Bach. “Over the last 10 years, the cost of a mask set has multiplied almost 10 times.

“If we can really make something that will be an order of magnitude better, the markets will be happy to make use of it. That’s our challenge, and I believe the technology makes it possible for us to do that.”

The ACS Nano paper appears here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/nn9006225

Read more about Tour’s research of graphitic memory here: 

To download images, go here: http://www.rice.edu/nationalmedia/images/graphitestripes.jpg

July 1, 2009

Amazon and cloud computing

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:15 pm

Did you know Amazon is in the cloud computing outsourcing business? Me either. Looks like the books and products e-tailer is now offering outsourcing for “a storage service, a compute service, a database service, a messaging service and a payment service.”

Overreach away from a core competency or a great business idea to leverage internal knowledge?

June 5, 2009

C-level finds email most valuable

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:16 pm

I’d hazard a guess most people, and not just executives,  find email either the top or tied at the top for the most valuable data on a hard drive.

Now for a casual user who  backs up nothing and has a priceless collection of photos or video email could come in second, but many ordinary users who do at least rudimentary backing up of documents, images and other like data fail to back up email folders, and even such mundane-seeming items such as favorites or cookies. After a failure all of these will be missed, probably more than realized.

Back to c-level executives, I can completely see where email is the most critical datato get back. The email inbox is truly a virtual inbox of work-to-do, information to process and documents to attend to. Losing that can be devastating. Too many executives allow the inbox or other email folders become the de facto storage spot for very important information.

Food for thought, and a lesson to remember — back up thoroughly and often.

From the link:

With so much valuable and confidential information in our inboxes, it’s no wonder 81% would recover that data first. There’s a strong legal argument for better backup, too. 

E-mail is the most valued business document, according to a recent survey from Kroll Ontrack Inc.

Kroll asked 200 business executives across Canada, the U.S. and Europe which business documents they would most prefer to recover in the event of data loss. Eighty one per cent reported they would save their mailboxes.

E-mail is of critical importance because it contains so much information, said Dave Pearson, senior storage research analyst with IDC Canada.

“Test contracts to vendors or clients, confidential memos … all sorts of work documents, process documents, presentations, sales materials, all those things pass through your e-mail at different times,” he said.

Large organizations, especially those subject to lawsuits, should have a centralized backup repository for their e-mail, Pearson suggested. “It just makes the discovery process so much easier and so much less expensive for them,” he said.

But many companies still lack a well-thought-out e-mail archival policy. “A lot of companies may not realize how much of their business is contained in their e-mail or how many confidential or important things are said in e-mail that they need to keep track of,” said Pearson.

Backing up e-mail is a high priority in the enterprise and a vital practice for IT, according to George Goodall, senior research analyst at London-based Info-Tech Research Group Inc.

E-mail is very much the lifeblood of any organization, he said. “Many people, especially executives, use e-mail as a knowledge repository … the problem is, it’s a very difficult thing to backup and more importantly, it’s difficult to restore.”

October 14, 2008

Flash drive security

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:29 am

Hopefully you’re not hauling too sensitive of data around on a flash drive, but they are very handy and cheap. Here’s a Technology Review article on flash drive security out there.

From the link:

Flash memory drives, the size of your thumb, are dirt cheap and offer gigabytes of storage. It’s tempting to fill one of them with important computer files, clip it to a key chain and hit the road.

But what if you lose it while fumbling for change at Starbucks and the hacker in the corner finds it? This is not a good thing.

That’s where a new breed of flash drives comes in — chock full of military-strength encryption and passwords and keypad combinations that must be entered before the data can be accessed.

I put a few secure flash drive solutions to the test: Take Anywhere’s Pocket Safe ($59.95), the IronKey ($149) and TrueCrypt, a free software program that works with any USB flash drive.

Each had its strengths and limitations, but I liked the IronKey unit best, with its built-in Firefox browser, large storage space and powerful password protections.

October 10, 2008

Holographic disc from GE to eventually hold one terabyte

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:12 pm

And likely to be backwards compatible with older CDs and DVDs. This holographic disc news is a real storage breakthrough.

From the link:

Now researchers at GE Global Research, in Niskayuna, NY, say that they are closing in on a mass-market version that would be compatible with older DVDs and CDs–technology that GE says could reach the market in 2012. If the project pans out, consumers could hold vast video libraries on a few holographic discs alongside the regular DVDs in their living room.

September 22, 2008

Nanopencil offers terabit of data storage

Pretty amazing bit of nanotech.

From the PhysOrg link:

The probe’s tip can write bit sizes with radii as small as 6.8 nanometers, allowing for a nonvolatile memory density of 1 Tbit/in2. With improvements, such technology has been predicted to realize storage density of 10 Tbits/in2.

This isn’t the first time that carbon nanotubes have been used as scanning probes for writing and reading data. However, the researchers, consisting of a team from Intel Corporation in Santa Clara, California, and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, made some improvements to enhance the performance and lifetime of the device.

While carbon nanotubes have strong mechanical and wear-resistant properties, one of the biggest challenges of using nanotubes as data storage read-and-write devices is that they’re still prone to bending and buckling after significant use. By coating the carbon nanotube with a 65-nm-thick layer of silicon-oxide, the researchers discovered that they could greatly increase the probe’s mechanical strength. In a sense, the improvement is the equivalent of putting wood around a long, thin stick of graphite in a regular pencil. After depositing the protective silicon-oxide sheath, the researchers used a diamond to “sharpen” the nanopencil to expose the carbon nanotube electrode.

Noureddine Tayebi, et al.

Image of the 870-nm-long nanopencil taken with a transmission electron microscope. The inset shows the carbon nanotube electrode protruding from the silicon-oxide sheath. Credit: Noureddine Tayebi, et al.

Noureddine Tayebi, et al.
Ferroelectric domain patterns written by a nanopencil probe with 6V pulses. Credit: Noureddine Tayebi, et al.