The new storage technique involves ‘self-assembly’ properties of chemically dissimilar polymer chains to array themselves into extremely dense, yet perfectly regular formations within cell sizes as small as three nanometers according to Ting Xu of the University of California at Berkeley and co-lead investigator Thomas Russell of UMass Amherst.
In theory, three-nanometer domains could create a storage density of 10 terabytes per square inch. When compared to the record 803 gigabytes per square inch achieved in rarified testing of perpendicular magnetic recording at TDK’s labs, the new technique beats that by nearly 12.5 times over.
Xu and Russell’s nanoscale arrays may also prove to be useful in circuit design as the self-assembling-polymer method has the advantage of not relying on typical photolithography technology that is commonly used for circuit design now.
Quoting Ting Xu :
“The challenge with photolithography is that it is rapidly approaching the resolution limits of light. In our approach, we shifted away from this ‘top down’ method of producing smaller features and instead utilized advantages of a ‘bottom up’ approach.”
Xu has also mentioned that their technique is more environmentally friendly than photolithography since it does not depend on harsh chemicals and acids. However, this new approach to extreme storage densities is not doing us any good sitting in a lab, but according to Xu, “The beauty of the method we developed is that it takes from processes already in use in the industry, so it will be very easy to incorporate into the production lines with little cost.”
If you are interested in reading a far more in-depth explanation of this new storage technology, the University of California has papers available here.