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Data Storage Upgrades Technology

Researchers Create Graphite Memory 10 Atoms Thick 135

Posted by timothy
from the comes-with-convenient-pink-rectangular-prism dept.
CWmike writes "Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated a new data storage medium made out of a layer of graphite only 10 atoms thick. The technology could potentially provide many times the capacity of current flash memory and withstand temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius and radiation that would make solid-state disk memory disintegrate. 'Though we grow it from the vapor phase, this material [graphene] is just like graphite in a pencil. You slide these right off the end of your pencil onto paper. If you were to place Scotch tape over it and pull up, you can sometimes pull up as small as one sheet of graphene. It is a little under 1 nanometer thick,' Professor James Tour said."
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Researchers Create Graphite Memory 10 Atoms Thick

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  • Re:10 Atoms thick? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:05PM (#26167493)

    In this instance, it seems highly likely that they're referring to atoms of carbon as those are the atoms which compose the material involved.

  • by psnyder (1326089) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:32PM (#26167703)

    Reading the articles, it appears the size is nice, but it isn't the biggest deal here. They're projecting a bit smaller than 10nm, which is twice as small as next-generation flash drives that "projections show ... will reach its limit of 20nm by around 2012."

    The biggest deal here seems to be power management.

    What distinguishes graphene from other next-generation memories is the on-off power ratio - the amount of juice a circuit holds when it's on, as opposed to off. "It's huge - a million-to-one," said Tour. "Phase change memory, the other thing the industry is considering, runs at 10-to-1. That means the 'off' state holds, say, one-tenth the amount of electrical current than the 'on' state."

    Current tends to leak from an "off" that's holding a charge. "That means in a 10-by-10 grid, 10 'offs' would leak enough to look like they were 'on.' With our method, it would take a million 'offs' in a line to look like 'on,'" he said. "So this is big. It allows us to make a much larger array."

  • Re:10 Atoms thick? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:46PM (#26167843)

    In this instance, it seems highly likely that they're referring to atoms of carbon as those are the atoms which compose the material involved.

    Interesting, let me see.

    Carbon [wikipedia.org]

    They say an atom of Carbon is about 80 pm (picometers) in diameter. A picometer is one trillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000) of a metre.

    The sheets were roughly 5 nanometers in diameter. Graphene is a form of carbon.

    Google tells me that 5 nanometers = 5000 picometers. Is my math off? It seems like there is a factor of 10 between how thick this stuff is and how thick Carbon is.

  • Re:10 Atoms thick? (Score:4, Informative)

    by tylerni7 (944579) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @08:08PM (#26168021) Homepage
    Your math is correct, your chemistry isn't.
    A carbon atom has a covalent radius of about 80pm, but the atoms in sheets of graphite aren't bonded together. I don't know how far apart the atoms would rest, but it's going to be much farther than they would bond.
  • Re:10 Atoms thick? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @08:18PM (#26168105) Homepage

    The sheets were roughly 5 nanometers in diameter. Graphene is a form of carbon.

    Google tells me that 5 nanometers = 5000 picometers. Is my math off? It seems like there is a factor of 10 between how thick this stuff is and how thick Carbon is.

    One is talking about thickness, the other a diameter. The next paragraph of the article it says the sheets are a little under 1nm thick, and 10 C atoms would be around 800pm so that's a little under 1nm. The 5nm diameter would then be the other dimensions, these grown sheets are presumably circular. That dimension is important because that indicates how densely you could pack them on a surface.

  • Re:10 Atoms thick? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @08:21PM (#26168127) Homepage

    Not that much farther apart, since the article says that the sheets are less than 1nm thick.

    The figure he's quoting is a diameter, which would be the 2d dimensions of the sheet on the surface of the silicon they grew it on. It's the 5nm diameter that makes this exciting as a memory technology since that is very dense.

  • Re:Finally.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by volsung (378) <stan@mtrr.org> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @08:39PM (#26168221)
    Almost. That should be $width_of_paper * 2**37.
  • Re:Finally.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ecalkin (468811) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @09:41PM (#26168581)

    you should watch some mythbusters!

    i think they managed 12 or 13 folds.

    of course they started with a sheet of paper the size of a house and made the last fold with the help of heavy machinery!

    eric

  • Re:10 Atoms thick? (Score:3, Informative)

    by elashish14 (1302231) <profcalc4@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @10:30PM (#26168897)
    In case you didn't RTFA, NAND technology is predicted to reach its size limit in 2012 at 20nm. Graphene can reach much smaller than that. Additionally, they mentioned that it can already run at 100ns (read speed I assume) whereas MLC (current SSD bleeding edge) reads at 50ns right now.

    The current things that are holding it back right now are probably mass distribution and reliability. Honestly though, it will take a lot more to convince me that we'll be using graphene-based memory chips someday.
  • Graphene/Graphite (Score:5, Informative)

    by kyc (984418) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @10:42PM (#26169001)

    Graphene has been studied extensively in the last few years. Carbon Nanotubes were on the rise (which are just rolled up sheets of single layer graphite) but the current difficulties to manipulate those to create devices staggered their advance. Graphene ( or Graphite for that matter) is a little easier to manage because it's like a 2 -D sheet and it can be laid/printed off a substrate more easily.

    The current major problem of graphene is the lack of a sizable band-gap which is typically required for semiconductor modulation. We may see a breakthrough in the following years if people figure out a way to overcome this barrier.

  • Re:10 Atoms thick? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @11:19PM (#26169239) Homepage

    There are 10 atoms, so that's 800pm, which is close to 1nm yeah. :)

    Which, uh, you figured out to much greater accuracy than I know how to in another post. Hehe.

  • Re:Finally.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by hvm2hvm (1208954) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:36AM (#26170659) Homepage
    No, the huge thin sheet only got to 8 and they needed a forklift to fold it. 12 folds would take an extremely large (or very thin) sheet of paper. That's because folds make the paper exponentially thicker and smaller. So, for the same thickness for each new fold you need to make the paper 2 times exponentially larger. I'm too lazy to think whether it's something like x^2^2 or (x^2)^2 (or just x^2 since you fold it along width and height alternatively). Anyway it grows fast since an A4 sheet can be folded 7 times and a warehouse sized thinner sheet gets to 8.
  • Re:10 Atoms thick? (Score:2, Informative)

    by dakup (1423621) on Friday December 19, 2008 @09:11AM (#26172113)
    they vaporize it on another material. sorry.
  • Re:Finally.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by KiwiCanuck (1075767) on Friday December 19, 2008 @10:38AM (#26173099)
    The force required to deflect/bend a beam is proportional to the cube of the thickness. Each time you fold the paper you make it twice as thick, and therefore 8 times stronger.

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