Tech Nous Small Talk

Thanks largely to the emergence of the internet, we now live in an age of information overload. All manner of data, from simple documents to complex images, is being generated and IT managers must constantly revisit their data management and storage requirements.
Recent IDC figures provide evidence of the growth in data capture and the resultant need for greater storage capacity. Graham Penn, director storage research for IDC Asia Pacific, has stated that overall the total new storage capacity expected to ship in New Zealand in 2003 is 1402 terabytes. “That’s an increase of 32.6 percent over shipments in 2002,” he says.
Consider too, the global implications of this data explosion. Not only does this immense amount of storage require effective management – it also necessitates the development of completely new storage technologies.
Nanotechnology looks to be the most promising of these new developments. Data storage has been approaching the ‘nano-realm’ ever since it became clear that we were nearing the ‘super-paramagnetic’ limit – the threshold beyond which magnetic storage is no longer stable.
Tom Rust, who writes for US magazine smalltimes, says nanotechnology is broad term that describes the design or fabrication of molecular- or atomic-scale (smaller than 100 nanometres) materials and devices. To get an idea of just how small we’re talking – 200 nanometres is roughly the distance your fingernails will grow in just three minutes. And remember the nanosecond? – that’s one thousand millionth of second.
Money is being poured into nanotech research and nanotech start-ups. huge host of potential applications exist for the technology. “As we continue to develop our skills to view, manipulate, construct, and test things on smaller and smaller scale, nanotechnology will have an impact on almost every aspect of the engineered world,” says Rust.
R&D at the nanoscale level has been going on for some time in data storage – because there is need to store an increasing amount of data in smaller and smaller devices, such as PDAs, mobile phones and digital cameras.
And as Rust points out, “Enterprises too, are continually looking for economical, reliable, and efficient ways to store, protect, and access their ever-increasing data.”
There’s no doubt that nano-
technology will have place in that search. In 2002 IBM scientists were already demonstrating data nano-storage density of trillion bits per square inch – that’s 20 times higher than the densest magnetic storage available today, or the equivalent of storing 25 DVDs on surface the size of postage stamp. The research project was code-named “Millipede” – and rather than using traditional magnetic or electronic means to store data, it uses thousands of nano-sharp tips to punch indentations (representing individual bits) into thin plastic film. According to IBM, this nanomechanical approach has the potential for thousand-fold increase in data storage density. It would enable complete high-capacity data storage system to be packed into the smallest format used now for flash memory. While flash memory isn’t expected to surpass 2GB of capacity in the near term – millipede technology could pack up to 15GB of data into the same tiny format, without requiring more power for device operation.
Faced with all this nanoscale development, it would seem that the data storage problem is about to be brought down to size. All hype aside, nanotechnology is shaping up to be the ultimate solution to low-cost, high-density data storage.

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