Ultra-dense memory device uses molecular nanotechnology

Physorg.com and many others report a molecular nanotechnology achievement by a UCLA/Caltech nanotech team:

A team of UCLA and California Institute of Technology chemists reports in the Jan. 25 issue of the journal Nature the successful demonstration of a large-scale, “ultra-dense” memory device that stores information using reconfigurable molecular switches. This research represents an important step toward the creation of molecular computers that are much smaller and could be more powerful than today’s silicon-based computers…

The memory is based on a series of perpendicular, crossing nanowires, similar to a tic-tac-toe board, with 400 bottom wires and another 400 crossing top wires. Sitting at each crossing of the tic-tac-toe structure and serving as the storage element are approximately 300 bistable rotaxane molecules. These molecules may be switched between two different states, and each junction of a crossbar can be addressed individually by controlling the voltages applied to the appropriate top and bottom crossing wires, forming a bit at each nanowire crossing.

The 160-kilobit molecular memory was fabricated at a density of 100,000,000,000 (1011) bits per square centimeter — “a density predicted for commercial memory devices in approximately 2020,” Stoddart said.

Another article I ran across on this — and which I cannot locate currently — reported that only 30% of the devices worked, but that this is not a problem for operation because the design is defect tolerant. It also claimed that the molecular switches break after being switched 10 times. So these are early days — but very exciting nonetheless. The names of researchers Fraser Stoddart and James Heath should be familiar to Foresight members, from Foresight Conferences and from Dr. Heath’s Feynman Prize in 2000. Other coverage: EE Times (credit John Faith), RSC.

Heath said:

“I don’t know if the world needs memory like this. I do know if you can manufacture at these dimensions, it’s a fundamentally enabling capability.”

He certainly got that second part right. —Christine

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