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Breakthrough in ferroelectric materials could enable million-GB thumbdrives

Evan Blass
May 9, 2006
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While we have to agree with certain Engadget readers who feel that 640KB of RAM is plenty for most computing tasks, those darn scientists just keep looking for ways to stuff more and more data into smaller spaces. The latest breakthrough on the storage tip comes courtesy of researchers from Drexel and Penn, who have found a way to stabilize the simple physical property of ferroelectricity at the nano scale, making possible such obviously unnecessary densities as 12,800,000GB per cubic centimeter. Ferroelectric materials are usable as memory because they possess the ability to switch electric charges in so-called dipole moments, but before Drexel's Dr. Jonathan Spanier and colleagues decided to embed the materials in water, it had previously been impossible to screen those dipole moments at scales small enough to be useful. Don't expect to be able to buy a zillion gig, water-filled iPod anytime soon, though, as the research team still faces significant hurdles in actually assembling the nanowires that would make up such a drive with the proper density as well as developing a method of efficiently reading and writing data.

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