Scientists are reporting an advance toward a memory device capable of storing data for more than one billion years.
Alex Zettl and colleagues note in the new study that some of today’s highest-density experimental storage media can retain ultra-dense data for only a fraction of a second. They note that William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book, written on vellum in 1086 AD, has survived 900 years. However, the medium used for a digital version of the book, encoded in 1986, failed within 20 years.
The researchers describe development of an experimental memory device consisting of an iron nanoparticle (1/50,000 the width of a human hair) enclosed in a hollow carbon nanotube. In the presence of electricity, the nanoparticle can be shuttled back and forth with great precision. This creates a programmable memory system that, like a silicon chip, can record digital information and play it back using conventional computer hardware. In lab and theoretical studies, the researchers showed that the device had a storage capacity as high as 1 terabyte per square inch (a trillion bits of information) and temperature-stability in excess of one billion years.