David Kirkpatrick

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.