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Data Storage Technology

Coming Soon, 250 DVDs In a Quarter-Sized Device 209

Posted by kdawson
from the video-library-in-your-pocket dept.
Several readers have remarked on a new technique developed by scientists at UC Berkeley and University of Massachusetts Amherst that has the promise of achieving storage densities of 10 terabits per square inch. "The method lets microscopic nanoscale elements precisely assemble themselves over large surfaces. ... Xu explained that the molecules in the thin film of block copolymers — two or more chemically dissimilar polymer chains linked together — self-assemble into an extremely precise, equidistant pattern when spread out on a surface... Russell and Xu conceived of the elegantly simple solution of layering the film of block copolymers onto the surface of a commercially available sapphire crystal. When the crystal is cut at an angle... and heated to 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Centigrade... for 24 hours, its surface reorganizes into a highly ordered pattern of sawtooth ridges that can then be used to guide the self-assembly of the block polymers."
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Coming Soon, 250 DVDs In a Quarter-Sized Device

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  • DVDs (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:31AM (#26928695)
    Who cares how many DVDs? How many Libraries of Congress is it, that's what I want to know.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Doesn't google provide a conversion between DVDs and Libraries of Congress?
      • How many Humans? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WED Fan (911325)
        LOC is a nice measurement, I want the technology to progress to the point we can digitize an entire colonization team, load them onto a ship with equipment necessary to reconstruct them and then send that ship to the farthest reaches. It's all about saving the evils of man so we can propagate.
      • Re:DVDs (Score:4, Funny)

        by davester666 (731373) on Friday February 20, 2009 @03:21PM (#26934095) Journal

        The size of the LOC is constantly changing. You need to specify the date/time to be used to determine the size of the LOC before you can do the conversion.

        Sure, you can use the default of 'right now', but if everybody does this, it makes comparisons useless, as everybodies 'LOC' constant is different.

        We must push for an international standard for the amount of data in a single 'Library of Congress'.

        Once this is done, we can discuss whether we should enforce this value on the real Library of Congress, so it's contents match the size of the international standard.

    • Re:DVDs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:46AM (#26928941) Homepage

      We're living in the future. The thought of a library fit onto a quarter-sized device makes me think of that scene from Gene Wolfe's science fiction masterwork The Book of the New Sun [amazon.com] where the curator of the Earth's largest and most ancient library says:

      There is a cube of crystal here --- though I can no longer tell you where --- no larger than the ball of your thumb that contains more books than the library itself does. Though a harlot might dangle it from one ear for an ornament, there are not volumes enough in the world to counterweight the other.

      The development of such small memory is a significant step forward. Just think about how the writings of the human race can be better preserved if it all fits on a small, lightweight and easily duplicated device. It could be spread all over the solar system as protection against all manner of cataclysms. I wonder how long it stays readable though, before it succumbs to some kind of rot.

      • Re:DVDs (Score:5, Funny)

        by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:59AM (#26929207) Journal

        I wonder how long it stays readable though, before it succumbs to some kind of rot.

        I imagine the future after mankind has passed away, where some alien race stumbles upon one of these libraries with the collective wisdom of humanity preserved on it, and upon trying to make sense of the contents, instead see a message: "We cannot verify you rights to access this material; the DRM server that can validate your license appears to be down. Please try again later".

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Botia (855350)
        Yes, we are living in the future. I am reminded of that every time I have to reboot my toaster.
      • by SharpFang (651121) on Friday February 20, 2009 @11:16AM (#26930473) Homepage Journal

        Well, say what you want, right here with me, in my wallet, I have a horse. Smaller than a quarter.
        Precisely, the complete genome sequenced and sorted. On a 2GB MicroSD card.

        "A lot of books" is an odd abstract that doesn't really impress me. But the idea of a full, unabridged, complete set of information which describes a real lifeform in full, contains the program of all the life functions, all the complexity of neural system, all the mysteries of instincts and social behaviors, the complexity of senses, the strength, immunity, lifeforce of a powerful creature - all this potential, described as a bunch of files consisting of rows upon rows of letters AGCT (gzipped).

        Sure we have no technology to reproduce a living creature from this data alone. But that looks like a really small problem compared to all the incredible knowledge achieved through billions of years of evolution, to solve all these problems of creating a standalone, self-repairing, self-replicating, self-defending, and quite pretty to that, piece of "biotechnology" - actually, the solution to re-creating it from that data (only on different media) is right in that data. We just can't really use it.

        250 high quality movies, in some future? blah.
        A horse in my wallet, now and today, that is what impresses me, really.

        • by Your Pal Dave (33229) on Friday February 20, 2009 @12:18PM (#26931463)

          A horse in my wallet, now and today, that is what impresses me, really.

          I dunno, any horse manages to keep a copy in the nucleus of each of its cells.

        • by HiThere (15173) <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {nsxihselrahc}> on Friday February 20, 2009 @12:24PM (#26931529)

          That's probably about 1/2 of the information required to reproduce a horse. The genome isn't everything, even if it were complete (which I doubt, because repetitive segment of codons are beyond what I believe is our current ability to sequence).

          But *if* you had the complete genome, including the mitochondiral sequences, etc. it still wouldn't be enough. You also need the environment to raise the genome, which includes not only mechanisms for feeding it, but an unknown but large number of prions which are required for proteins to fold correctly. Not all proteins require such assistance, but many do, and without them you can't create a live horse...or any other mammal, probably any other chordate.

          I'm guessing that the genome is half the information needed. It could be considerably less than half. (Or, of course, more. I can't even tell if I'm being conservative.)

          Note that the genome carries practically all the information for the variation between horses...or between horses and zebras. But this isn't at all the same as half the information.

        • by smallfries (601545) on Friday February 20, 2009 @12:26PM (#26931577) Homepage

          It's a nice idea, but not actually true.

          There is enough information on that card to create a horse within the environment of a horse. There is nowhere near enough information to create a horse from scratch.

          Look at the new cloning projects trying to bring back extinct animals from the dead. The first step is to find a living species that is genetically close enough to act as a surrogate host.

        • by pzs (857406)

          But the idea of a full, unabridged, complete set of information which describes a real lifeform in full, contains the program of all the life functions, all the complexity of neural system, all the mysteries of instincts and social behaviors, the complexity of senses, the strength, immunity, lifeforce of a powerful creature - all this potential, described as a bunch of files consisting of rows upon rows of letters AGCT (gzipped).

          What about epigenetics [wikipedia.org]? The sequence is not everything.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MobyDisk (75490)

          Actually, that 2GB MicroSD card is very inefficient as far as nature is concerned. That same amount of DNA exists in genetic material a million times smaller. We have a long way to go.

        • by Yetihehe (971185) on Friday February 20, 2009 @02:00PM (#26932921)

          But the idea of a full, unabridged, complete set of information which describes a real lifeform in full, contains the program of all the life functions, all the complexity of neural system, all the mysteries of instincts and social behaviors, the complexity of senses, the strength, immunity, lifeforce of a powerful creature - all this potential, described as a bunch of files consisting of rows upon rows of letters AGCT (gzipped).

          Yeah, but it takes YEARS to compile! Also if you don't compile it in a networked environment with some of the same nodes, --social-behaviors option is often ignored.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196)

          > 250 high quality movies, in some future? blah.

          Those movies can be anything. They don't necessarily have to be formula Action movies.

          They could be the history of the world from the Learning Company.

          They could be any other set of subjects from the Learning Company.

          They could be that same content in audio form (times 10) rather than video form.

          They could be the entire Project Gutenberg collection.

          They could be history recorded as it was happening.

          The genome of a horse is a little less useful. Hell, we don

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Hognoxious (631665)

        There is a cube of crystal here --- though I can no longer tell you where

        In other words, he lost it. And that's the problem with all these high density storage devices.

        Micro SD are smaller than a fingernail - what next, dustMoteDisk, the storage device you can fit under a fingernail? OMG, I just scrubbed my hands and lost all my holiday photos!eleventyone!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by allawalla (1030240)
      Seems like 500 TB in the library of congress, At 10Tb an inch -- About 400 square inches for the library of congress.
    • by aliquis (678370)

      Yeah, useless info, who cares if it's 250 compressed DVDs when you can't play them?

      Just say 1 or 2 TB.

  • by foxalopex (522681) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:34AM (#26928747)
    This seems like it has some potential. Hopefully it will make it out of the lab considering how many times I've seen the promise of amazing technology only to find that eventually it isn't practical or has some sort of manufacturing limitation. Oh, and while you're at it, when you do create this "new technology" don't riddle it with DRM issues.
    • by reashlin (1370169) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:31AM (#26929777)
      > This seems like it has some potential. Yup, it'll be good for storing your router logs http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/09/02/20/131224.shtml?from=rss [slashdot.org] [slashdot.org]
    • by knarfling (735361) on Friday February 20, 2009 @12:30PM (#26931635) Journal

      Sorry, probably not any time soon.

      Not because of the tech or DRM or anything, but because this is not a new storage medium as most of the comments below seem to indicate, but because it is a new METHOD of creating storage.

      From TA (Yes, I actually RTFA [sometimes, but I don't make it a habit]), it appears to be a new way to create semiconductors. This process would be used to create RAM, microprocessors, or other semiconductor manufacturing. Think of it as being able to create a 10 TerraByte RAM stick the same size as a 8 GigaByte ram stick now.

      Furthermore, the heating process is not used for each set of RAM chips created. I heat up one huge crystal and then use it as a bed to create a large plate of semiconductor material which I can cut multiple RAM chips. I no longer have to use the expensive nano lithography to create chips. I only need one bed to make many, many plates. By changing the heating process, I can create one bed for RAM chips, another for microprocessors and another for a custom chip.

      Why won't we see it soon, then? Because chip manufacturers already have tons of money invested in nano lithography and won't be willing to just drop it. The author seems to think that since it only replaces the nano lithography and harsh chemical processes that everyone will jump at it in order to make cheaper chips. I am not so optimistic, but would love to see it.

  • Art Immitates Life (Score:5, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:35AM (#26928749) Journal

    "This fascinating little gadget is supposed to replace the CD; guess I'll have to buy the White Album again." - Agent K, Men In Black

  • Good, lets keep the size of the discs the same, use the same 1080P resolution and use losslessly compressed audio and video. Oh, and let the big movie studios use their expensive equipment and processing power to make it 60fps rather than letting everybody's bluray player magically turn 24fps into 60
    • Oh, and let the big movie studios use their expensive equipment and processing power to make it 60fps rather than letting everybody's bluray player magically turn 24fps into 60

      So you want them to create frames that previously didn't exist? I'd rather stick with the current methods of either repeating a frame for X interval or, better yet, using a display that operates in multiples of 24 (72Hz and 120Hz work quite well).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Firethorn (177587)

        better yet, using a display that operates in multiples of 24 (72Hz and 120Hz work quite well)

        It's an LCD monitor. There's no particular reason it needs to refresh at 60htz or faster.

        My LCD TV is perfectly happy operating at 24hz when that's the media it's presented. I imagine that, given the right hardware and programming, the thing would be perfectly happy refreshing at any given interval between 1 and 60hz, only limited by whatever scheme is telling it the resolution and refresh rates it's supposed to be displaying.

        Still - I think it'd be best for movie makers to switch from filming in 24fps to

  • coming soon? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:36AM (#26928767)

    f- coming soon
    coming soon should be only be able to be used if it in on shelves in 90 days or less.

  • my Holographic Versatile Disk, [wikipedia.org] we'll talk about this. At the moment, it's all vaporware.

    Let's face it, no major manufacturer is going to decide what technology to use based on storage capacity, it will be based on how restrictive it will be to the end user.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LUH 3418 (1429407)
      But of course... This is why we now have 32GB+ USB keys... Because the RIAA/MPAA would never allow devices with this kind of capacity and read/write access to fall into our hands! Seriously... Why don't you take off that tinfoil hat?

      The reason we're not seeing any of those insanely dense holographic storage technologies and other forms of vaporware is because right now, it doesn't work. The huge claims in this article are either the result of journalists not understanding what's going on, or researchers
      • by HiThere (15173)

        I may be cynical, but I think it more likely journalists writing what they think will sell. There is probably some kernel of truth under there somewhere... but finding it would require digging.

        And the journalists don't get paid for digging anymore than I do. They get paid for writing interesting articles. Preferably with some actual basis somewhere, if only in misunderstanding. Better interesting misunderstanding than boring actuality.

  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:39AM (#26928829)

    If they can make this technology work with solid-state re-writable memory, I can see huge leaps forward in storage for portable music player solid state memory. The possibility of storing 250 to 500 GB of media files on a portable music player the size of the current 4G iPod nano is very enticing, to say the least.

    And it may finally spell the end of the hard drive, replaced by a solid-state "drive" in the 750 GB to 1.5 TB range.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zappepcs (820751)

      Yes, and a mirrored RAID-5 stack would fit inside a pack of cigarettes. A 3.5 inch bay with a little drawer that pulls out with 16 slots in it for these devices.

      I wish we'd just get on with using crystals so when the aliens come we'll be able to use their technology. Of course, the down side to using the new alien technology would be all the ads for 250 DVD sized ZIP drives, and cheap home video recording equipment from X10.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:45AM (#26928921)

    my mini-van full of 9-track can hold 3 TB, and is real. don't bother me with this vaporware speculation!

  • by Logical Zebra (1423045) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:45AM (#26928923)

    ...and heated to 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Centigrade... for 24 hours...

    I certainly hope they can improve those figures. From a manufacturing standpoint, that sounds very expensive.

    • ...and heated to 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Centigrade... for 24 hours...

      Sooooo, probably not going to have a writable drive for PCs for awhile huh?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by lucifig (255388)

        I don't know, my MacBook certainly gets close. At least it feels like it on my lap.

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        Well, by my reading of the article this would be used as the substrate for manufacturing the storage system, not as storage.

        IE they'd use a sapphire base instead of a silicon one, using the auto-ordering substrate to arrange things beyond the density that photolithography can do.

        So you'd just have really, really, dense flash memory. Well, that and your CPU, RAM, etc...

    • by cduffy (652)

      Maybe -- but if we're doing a large enough batch size, the cost for an individual unit may not be so awful.

      Then again, not my field, so I wouldn't really know. My next-door neighbor used to be an engineer for 3M who specialized in coming up with scalable manufacturing processes for products coming out of R he'd be the person to ask how this compares.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Firethorn (177587)

      Well, consider that Steel, which is used in construction left and right, is made from Iron with a melting point of 1538C [wikia.com]

      Also, Silicon is 1414C [wikia.com], and yes they melt [memc.com] the silicon to make the wafers. Don't forget that we also melt a lot of silicon for windows.

      As for keeping the temperature up for 24 hours, well, the vast amount of the cost is getting the temperature that hot, after that it just depends on how well insulated your oven is.

    • by smoker2 (750216)
      No worse really than tantalum caps, which go into sinters for roughly 12 hours.
    • Also, sapphire is quite expensive, even artificial one.

      But from the description it looks like it's only needed as a tool to mass-produce these, reusable. Meaning you make such one sapphire matrix and then use it to produce bulk amounts of media which may be a simple plastic coated with these polymers.

  • Not only is it just stupid to use DVD equivalents to give an idea of the size (how many elephants equals a libraries of congress anyway?), but they're off by an order of magnitude.

    8.4GB * 250 = 2.1TB, not 10TB.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:00AM (#26929223)
    If the device is really as small as they say, it will be extremely easy to lose every digital thing you value in one careless moment.

    This technology should kick-start the backup market as people will have to continually restore all their photos, music and movies every time they leave the last chip somewhere they forget about.

    Hopefully the backup/restore device will be bigger (and static) so that it, too, doesn't get easily lost.

  • by dmomo (256005)

    That's like... more bits than all the atoms in the UNIVERSE! Logically, we should be able to back up precisely on Universe on each device.

  • by cats-paw (34890) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:06AM (#26929333) Homepage

    This growing trend of announcing lab discoveries which _might_ hold commercial promise _sometime_ in the future, _maybe_, are really kind of annoying.

    What do these accomplish ? Do they show the people supplying the research $ that something is being accomplished and that the researches aren't just sitting around the lab smoking fatties ?

    Vaporware just doesn't do these "discovery" press releases enough justice.

    Could some clever person out there think of a nice derogatory term for them ?

    Something to do with flying cars, maybe.

  • by elrous0 (869638) *
    I can fit my entire porn collection on just 4 discs, each the size of quarters? That's amazing!
    • I can fit my entire porn collection on just 4 discs

      Pfft, amateur.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by FishAdmin (1288708)

        I can fit my entire porn collection on just 4 discs

        Pfft, amateur.

        No, no; I think he meant the professional videos, too, not just the amateur stuff.

  • TFA is unfortunately incomplete. So far what they seem to have is ten terabits per square inch, but the bits are all zeros.

  • I so resent research scientists selling some cute tinkering on a nano-scale as having imminent potential for practical high-density memory or some other technology. Almost none of these stories have any chance of ever resulting in something that works and is economically competitive. The scientists in question know that very well, they're just putting a practical applications spin on it because popular-science writers/press/websites go for that. Pimps.
  • It's a good thing that it's microscopic nano-scale, as opposed to macroscopic nanoscale!
  • Coming next (Score:3, Insightful)

    by halber_mensch (851834) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:31AM (#26929773)
    MPAA/RIAA lawsuits against anyone who buys these devices, because obviously you can't afford to fill that device with legitimately purchased content or you'd be as bankrupt as they're going to make you with the lawsuit.
  • I was astounded. Somehow, the structure of DVDs can be changed, and they can be shrunk to such a degree to allow 250 of them to be stacked in one quarter ( presumably US) sized container.

    Turns out, they just were talking about the data on the DVD, not the physical object. There goes my "shipping company based on carrier pidgens" concept.

  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kabocox (199019) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:57AM (#26930143)

    I wonder how long it'll take us to invent genetic memory. Let's think of what it'd really require. It requires encoding memory into your reproductive packages. How many generations back would you include? Most likely as many as possible.

    Thinking about it, we've got 9 months to grow and develop inside another human. I wonder how much/little engineering that it would take to have neural downloads straight into the kid's memory right up until birth. Of course you could always run into the Dune problem where past personalities want to take control of the new generation. That's one of the reasons that the memories might be useful, but entire personalities would be dangerous.

    Who needs history education if you could remember it happening through your relative's view point?

    Of course some things folks might want to forget or try to force future generations not to remember.

  • Coming soon! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lucas123 (935744) on Friday February 20, 2009 @11:06AM (#26930311) Homepage
    I hate it when someone uses "coming soon" in the title of a story when production of the technology is at least 10 years off and industry adoption isn't even in sight. Oh, and don't forget there are a half dozen other nanotechnologies promising the same thing as this one, such carbon nanotubes and scanning tunneling microscopy, atomic force microscopy, holographic storage, heat-assisted magnetic recording, and quantum dot technology.
  • by macraig (621737)

    You have to keep the substrate heated to 1500 degrees Centigrade for twenty-four freaking hours? That's a LOT of expended energy to create the doggone thing, isn't it? Something tells me it takes less energy to make those 250 DVDs.

    I don't think this process is going to be qualifying for an Energy Star rating any time soon. Here we go again... using MORE energy like there will never be a Peak Oil event tomorrow.

    • by dfdashh (1060546)
      Yeah, true, but you also have to consider what kind of batch the manufacturer can concurrently process. These are also supposedly small objects, so perhaps many of them could fit into one batch and spread the cost out until they are feasible from an energy-expenditure/cost perspective. Who knows...I'm not holding my breath.
    • Google "insulation".

    • by HiThere (15173)

      *Keeping* something at a particular temperature doesn't require much energy if you've got good insulation. It's true that higher temperatures require better insulation, and that 1500 C is pretty high. That just means that you need several layers of vacuum insulation. Make building the oven expensive, and getting it up to heat in the first place expensive, but not holding it at the right temperature.

      At that temperature you need to worry about radiative losses as well as conductive losses, so vacuum alone

  • How long will it be until storage technologies that reply on motors and spinning disks and some form of stylus (magnetic heads, lasers, etc.) are a thing of the past? Or are there fundamental reasons why motor-driven media will always have an edge over their solid-state brethren for the foreseeable future?
  • 10 terabits per square inch

    None of your tech mumbo-jumbo, please. Just tell me how many Libraries of Congress per width of a human hair.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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