Imagine cramming 1 TB of data on a fingernail-sized chip. That's around fifty times the capacity of today's high-end silicon-based chips, and apparently engineers from North Carolina State University have mattered such a feat and developed a new material capable of handling incredibly large amounts of storage--the equivalent of 20 high-def DVDs--in an extremely small space.
The team of engineers was led by Jagdish "Jay" Narayan, director of the National Science Foundation Center for Advanced Materials and Smart Structures at N.C. State. According to this news release, the team made its breakthrough by adding an impurity to a material to change its properties (called selective doping). By working at the nanometer level, the engineers added nickel to magnesium oxide (a ceramic) and created a material with clusters of nickel atoms around 10 square nanometers in size.
“Instead of making a chip that stores 20 gigabytes, you have one that can handle one terabyte, or 50 times more data,” Narayan said. The new atoms are 90-percent smaller than the ones used today, and could lead to a boost in computer storage capacity, reduce heat produced by semiconductors, and enhance a vehicle's fuel economy by offering up to 80 miles per gallon.
80 miles to the gallon? How is this possible? It's all in the metallic properties dumped into the ceramics. Narayan said engineers could develop new engines using the new ceramic that could withstand twice the amount of heat endured by current engines. There's even mention of harnessing solar energy thanks to the thermal conductivity of the new material.