Duke University Debuts Spray-On Memory

A series of circles looping each other

Posted on Friday, May 12, 2017

While Microsoft and Columbia University continue development of DNA as a data storage medium, researchers at Duke University are taking a different approach. While investigating the potential of nanotechnology and printed electronics, the Durham-based team have managed to create “spray-on” digital storage.

Nanowires and printable electronics

The nameless technology uses silica-coated copper nanowires encased in a polymer matrix. When dissolved in methanol, scientists were able to create a nanoparticle ink that can be used with an aerosol jet printer to print a layer of memory onto a specially prepared slide.

Unlike traditional memory technologies, the new spray-on system encodes data using states of resistance. By applying a voltage to the nanowires, current can be adjusted; a lack of flow through the resistor is registered as a zero, while free flow represents a one.

High performance memory

Even at this early stage of development, researchers have been able to demonstrate consistent write speeds of just 3 microseconds – very similar to current high performance flash drives. The spray-on memory is also expected to last at least a decade, which the team claim is twice as long as current systems.

There is one drawback however – the prototype being demonstrated has a capacity of just 4 bits. Obviously researchers hope to break through these limitations in future, but it may be some time until we see spray-on storage hit the mainstream.

Even if printed nanotechnology proves fruitless as a data storage medium, it is reassuring that scientists continue to search for a solution to demand for increased density and reduced costs. It may be that the days of magnetic disk and tape really are coming to an end.

In the meantime, why not give us a call to discuss how we can help you repurpose your post-warranty hardware to create a flexible storage platform?