A special very thin carbon compound, developed in Kolkata by Indian scientist Swadhin Mondal, has been modified by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Boston along with researchers from the IBM Research Center in Bangalore. It uses molecular properties unlike magnetic or optical storage mechanisms to capture vast amounts of data in very small spaces.
"It took us a lot of research and we thought that no one had so far thought about it. Everyone today wants to carry a lot of information so this device will actually enable that. In your pocket you could store as much and walk. We have used the spin filter technology. And we adopted the bottom to top approach," said Raman V Karthik, a researcher at the IBM Research Center in Bangalore and co-author of the paper.
The work has been published in the prestigious British journal 'Nature' and suggests that once commercialized, 1000 more times data can be stored in the same space. "I can see it happening soon. I am sure a lot of people will start research on this now. I will give it 10 years," says Karthik.
According to MIT News, "Moore's law - the well-known doubling of computer chips' computational power every 18 months or so - has been paced by a similarly steady increase in the storage capacity of disk drives. In 1980, a hard drive could store about a half-megabyte of data in a square inch of disk space; now, manufacturers are closing in on a million megabytes of data per square inch.
"An experimental technology called molecular memory, which would store data in individual molecules, promises another 1,000-fold increase in storage density. But previous schemes for molecular memory have relied on physical systems cooled to near absolute zero. The shape of the molecules themselves could also simplify the manufacture of molecular memory. Typically, experimental molecular memories consist of five or six layers of molecules sandwiched between electrodes. If those molecules are properly aligned, they exhibit large swings in conductivity, but if they're not, they don't. Ensuring their proper alignment is another labor-intensive process.
"The molecules developed by the Indian researchers, however, consist of zinc atoms attached to flat sheets of carbon, which naturally tend to align with each other. The MIT researchers also showed that two layers of the molecules were sufficient to produce a memory cell."
A typical digital video file takes about one gigabytes, so with such a device, one could store more than 1,000 digital movies in a pocket-sized device. The current drawback is that the molecular memory works only at sub-zero temperatures but the researchers are working on improved models that can work at room temperature.