Molecules used to store data
Electronics are getting smaller and smaller by the day, and this rate of shrinking has certainly caused scientists to hit the ceiling faster whenever something smaller is crafted. Since processors depend on features etched with high energy light while hard drives continue to store information in ever shrinking clusters of atoms, electrical, magnetic, and possibly even quantum interference will get in the way as it gets increasingly difficult to maintain and detect signals such as the state of a memory bit. Scientists aim to sidestep this issue by exploring a different method to store data – and in this case, they will attempt to store information within the chemical structure of a single molecule. To date, a team of European researchers have come closer to unveiling a consumer-worthy product where single-molecule storage is concerned.
Since molecular memory uses chemicals that can switch back and forth between two stable states, it works pretty much in the same vein when compared to clusters of atoms that switch magnetic states on the surface of hard drives. So far, lab conditions have proved favorable although real world usage has not been too kind, which means more research is required. What the scientists are looking for is a molecule that is physically flat and changes states by shifting the location of hydrogen atoms without undergoing any structural changes. What would make this process even more efficient would be changing and reading the memory state using electrical conduction similar to what electronics use today.
This research and approach to data storage is far from being ready for commercial use as it currently operates just above absolute zero conditions and will require a scanning-tunneling microscope. In addition, it only sets bits with a 90% accuracy – a figure that just will not do where data storage is concerned. Perhaps with (much) more time and research, a commercial solution will be able to be conjured up although that is a long way off at this junction. Well, don’t hold off getting that 1TB external hard drive now – what are you waiting for?
Source: Ars Technica