The Engineer (United Kingdom) (09/12/12)
New research led by Intel marks a key step in the effort to commercialize probe-based storage technology with capabilities that exceed those of hard disk and solid-state drives. The researchers developed a long-lasting, ultra-high-density probe storage device by coating the tips of the probes with a thin metal. The device features an array of 5,000 ultra-sharp probes, which is integrated with on-chip electronic circuits. The researchers say the probes write tiny bits of memory as small as a few nanometers by sending short electrical pulses to a ferroelectric film, a material that can be given a permanent electric polarization by applying an electric field. High-speed data access requires that the probes slide quickly and frequently across the film. Wear can seriously degrade the write-read resolution of the device, so the team deposited a thin metal film of hafnium diboride on the probe tips. The metal film reduces wear and enables the probe tips to retain their write-read resolution at high speeds for distances exceeding eight kilometers. The data densities of the device exceed one terabit per square inch.