IBM puts Millipede on public display

Hannover - IBM exhibits at CeBit the first prototype of its Millipede data storage technology that could compete one day in Flash-based memory cards and sticks. The chip is built in a 10 nm process technology and achieves a data storage density of currently 1.2 Tbit or 153 GByte per square inch - which allows storing the content of 25 DVDs on the size of a postage stamp.

Millipede works with thousands of fine tips that "write" tiny pits representing individual bits into a thin film of highly specific polymer. The principle is comparable with the old punch cards, but now with structural dimensions in the nanometer scale and the ability to erase data and rewrite the medium, IBM said.

According to the company, the high storage density of more than a terabit was reached by using individual silicon tips to create pits approximately 10 nm in diameter, which is 50,000 times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. Experimental chips have been designed comprising 4096 of these tips arrayed in a small 6.4 mm x 6.4 mm square. These dimensions make it possible to pack an entire high-capacity storage system into the SD flash memory format package.

IBM said that each tip is able to read and write on a distance of only 100 nm to keep power consumption of a Millipede storage device low. Total storage capacity of Millipede storage media device is expected to reach about 100 GByte in a SD card form factor when introduced.

There is no official roadmap which would reveal the commercial availability of IBM's technology. According to media reports, IBM is in negotiations with potential partners and believes Millipede could be mass-produced within two or three years which will put it in a time frame where market experts currently expect Flash technology to reach the end of its scaling capabilities.