Punch-card Redux

Wow. I remember reading about this technology in a science magazine a couple of years ago. IBM have come out with a working prototype of their ‘millipede‘ project: a nano-mechanical storage device.

In a very rough way, this thing works the same way as punch-cards. Basically teeny tiny little cantilevers make pock-marks in a polymer substrate. These pits can then be read using the same little cantilevers as sensors. The upshot? Data storage densities of more than one terabit per square inch, equivalent to storing the content of 25 DVDs on an area the size of a postage stamp.

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The core components of this probe storage system are a two-dimensional array of silicon probes (cantilevers) and a micro-mechanical scanner which moves the storage medium relative to the array. A sophisticated design levels the probes above the storage medium with high precision and ensures that external vibrations and impacts are absorbed. For the device to perform its reading, writing and erasing functions, the cantilever tips are brought into contact with the storage medium ? a thin film of a custom designed cross-linked polymer coated on a silicon substrate, which is moved in the x- and y-directions. The storage medium is positioned with nanometer-scale accuracy relative to the cantilever array.

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