What is Nanostorage?

Michael Anissimov

"Nanostorage" is a rarely used buzzword, like "nanochip" used to describe certain types of memory storage technology that exploit features at the scale of nanometers, or sometimes, the scale of atoms (a silicon atom is about 1/10 nanometer in diameter). The word is used so rarely it is unclear what exactly what is refers to, but most of the technologies discussed in the nanochip article also refer to nanostorage. The object of nanostorage is to make money by offering higher-density storage media with novel applications. For instance, a 100 terabyte storage drive could hold years worth of video (over 100,000 hours).

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

The archetypical example of "nanostorage" would be IBM's Millipede, which used a MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) based probe which manipulates the charge in tiny capacitors to store data. However, despite announcements that the technology was to be made commercial in late 2007, the flow of publications ceased in 2006, meaning the project was likely shut down and the technology abandoned.

"Nanostorage" got some news in 2004 when NanoMarkets LC, a market analysis group, projected that the market for nanostorage would penetrate nearly 40% of the disk drive and memory chip business by 2011, with a combined value of $65.7 billion. The report further asserted that the technology would be highly disruptive to the disk drive industry because it could blend the capabilities of data storage and memory chips, presently distinct devices.

Technologies that fall under the purview of "nanostorage" include MRAM (magnetoresistive random access memory), which its supporters believe has such overwhelming advantages that it will become the new dominant universal memory, NRAM (nano random access memory), which encodes data as patterns in carbon nanotubes, holographic memory, which would encode data using multiple angles and layers within the same media, and molecular memory, which is a generic term for anything else that uses individual molecules to store data, implying great storage capacity.

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