updated 04:45 pm EDT, Wed October 21, 2009
Researchers increase chip capacity 50-fold
Engineers at the North Carolina State University claim to have developed a chip smaller than a human fingernail that can store 50 times more data than current DRAM memory chips of similar size, Wired reported on Tuesday. The prototype can theoretically hold 1TB, says Jagdish Narayan, a professor of materials science and engineering at the school. This was achieved by selectively doping the material, or adding impurities to change its data storage capacity. In this case, the researchers added nickel to magnesium oxide, mixing the metal and ceramic.
The new alloy has nickel atoms less than 10 square nanometers. The biggest challenge in the project, which was being developed for more than five years, is aligning the nano dots precisely. Each nano dot has to be properly oriented so it's consistent with all others and can be read in the same way. By using pulsed layers, researchers were able to achieve more control over the process.
Narayan believes the prototype could be made into commercial products in one or two years, with prices not significantly higher than current memory chips when they do reach production. The main issue now is to find a large-scale manufacturer of the new technology.