Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Solid-State Memory Breakthrough...

If this new technology proves commercializable (and it sure looks like it will be), then the demise of rotating magnetic media (i.e., hard disks) will be much hastened.  The fact that it can be layered to make “3D” memory means that devices using this technology can have absolutely awesome volumetric densities.

In other words, you can pack a whole bunch of information into an incredibly tiny space.  Today's commercial memory technologies are all “2D”, meaning that they depend on a bits stored in a sheet (hard disks, CDs, DVDs, and Flash Memory are all like this).  There are definite limits to how closely together the sheets can be packed.  The new technology allows bits to be stored in layers that are extremely thin and placed directly atop one another.  By arranging thousands or millions of layers, one can make a cube or brick of practically solid memory – with each bit occupying a cube just a few nanometers on a side.

Just a little back-of-the-napkin math will show what I mean.  Imagine that the “bit cubes” were 100 nanometers on a side (that's 100 billionths of a meter) – far larger than the bits in the lab.  Then imagine we built a cube of these that was 2 centimeters (about three quarters of an inch) on a side.  That cube would hold about 1,000 terabytes – or the same as 1,000 of the largest hard disks one can buy today!

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