Increasing Computer Memory with Self-Assembling Polymers
While solid state drives are grabbing a lot of attention for their high speed, magnetic hard disk drives are not going away thanks to their large storage capacity. Pushing capacities further is getting difficult though as the bits on the hard disks are approaching such a small scale that the magnetic field of one affects those around it. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin however have found a way to beat that and this could lead to data densities five times greater than currently possible.
The problem is that the fields of the individual bits can affect each other, so it stands to reason that a solution would be to block the magnetic fields, and thus isolate the bits. This can be achieved with block copolymers which can self-assemble into special patterns. When this has been attempted previously, the copolymers were able to double the density of conventional HDDs, but this new research works with much smaller and, unexpectedly, much faster copolymers. These new copolymer dots are the smallest in the world and they self-assemble in less than a minute. Initially the hope was for the self-assembly process to complete in just 48 hours, so the thirty second mark that has been achieved is very surprising.
With these two records set, it will be very interesting to see where this technology goes. Not only could it enhance our hard drives but could impact other devices as well, once that high speed is understood.