Scientists claim a new nanotechnology will allow manufacturers to create thumb drives with a capacity of more than a terabyte within a few years:
Thanks to a new technique for manipulating charged copper particles at the molecular scale, researchers at Arizona State University say their memory is, bit-for-bit, one-tenth the cost of -- and 1,000 times as energy-efficient as -- flash memory, the predominant memory technology in iPhones and other mobile devices.
"A thumb drive using our memory could store a terabyte of information," says Michael Kozicki, director of ASU's Center for Applied Nanoionics, which developed the technology. "All the current limitations in portable electronic storage could go away. You could record video of every event in your life and store it."
The new memory technology -- programmable metallization cell (PMC) -- comes as current storage technologies are starting to reach their physical limits. At the tiny scale envisioned for new devices, flash memory becomes unstable. The physical limits of flash are already being approached, and could be reached in the near future, which could slow product development for portable device makers like Apple and Sandisk.
PMC memory stores information in a fundamentally different way from flash. Instead of storing bits as an electronic charge, the technology creates nanowires from copper atoms the size of a virus to record binary ones and zeros.