Indian engineers create fingernail-size chip of 1TB

Posted: October 22, 2009 in Computer

A team of Indian engineers have created a small chip that can hold 1TB of data, which is more than 50 times the capacity of today’s best silicon-based chip technologies. The team of engineers was led by Jagdish “Jay” Narayan, Director of the National Science Foundation Center for Advanced Materials and Smart Structures at the North Carolina State University. These engineers said their nanostructured Ni-MgO system can store up to 20 high-definition DVDs or 250 million pages of text, “far exceeding the storage capacities of today’s computer memory systems,” according to Computer World.

The engineers made their breakthrough using the process of selective doping, in which an impurity is added to a material whose properties consequently change. Working at the nanoscale, the engineers added metal nickel to magnesium oxide, a ceramic. The resulting material contained clusters of nickel atoms no bigger than 10 square nanometers – a pinhead has a diameter of one million nanometers. The discovery represents a 90 percent size reduction compared with today’s techniques, and an advancement that could boost computer storage capacity. “Instead of making a chip that stores 20 gigabytes, you have one that can handle one terabyte, or 50 times more data,” Narayan said in a press release.

This invention might also open new doors for boosting vehicles’ fuel economy and reducing heat produced by semiconductors. Narayan said that by using the process of selective doping, the engineers could introduce metallic properties into ceramics. The process would allow them to develop a new generation of ceramic engines able to withstand twice the temperatures of normal engines. The engines could potentially achieve fuel economy of 80 miles per gallon.

The breakthrough using the process of selective doping also advances knowledge in the emerging field of “spintronics,” which is dedicated to harnessing energy produced by the spinning of electrons. “Most energy used today is harnessed through the movement of current and is limited by the amount of heat that it produces, but the energy created by the spinning of electrons produces no heat,” the university said in a press release. The engineers manipulated the nanomaterial so the electrons’ spin within the material could be controlled, which could prove valuable to harnessing the electrons’ energy. The finding could be important for engineers working to produce more efficient semiconductors.

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