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Data Storage Hardware

Researchers Print Electronic Memory On Paper 78

MTorrice (2611475) writes Electronics printed on paper promise to be cheap, flexible, and recyclable, and could lead to applications such as smart labels on foods and pharmaceuticals or as wearable medical sensors. Many engineers have managed to print transistors and solar cells on paper, but one key component of a smart device has been missing—memory. Now a group of researchers has developed a method that uses ink-jet technology to print resistive random access memory on an ordinary letter sized piece of paper. The memory is robust: Engineers could bend the device 1,000 times without any loss of performance. The memory is not yet very dense, but could be: "Each silver dot they printed was approximately 50 microns across and separated from its neighbor by 25 microns, so each bit of memory is 100 microns on a side. At that size, a standard 8.5- by 11-inch piece of paper can hold 1 MB of memory. Der-Hsien Lien, the paper's lead author, says existing ultrafine ink-jet technology can produce dots less than 1 micron across, which would allow the same piece of paper to hold 1 gigabyte. Reading and writing the bits takes 100 to 200 microseconds"
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Researchers Print Electronic Memory On Paper

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  • Old news... (Score:5, Funny)

    by chinton ( 151403 ) <<chinton001-slashdot> <at> <>> on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @12:46PM (#47516375) Journal
    I've been printing my memory on paper since I could hold a pencil...
    • I've been printing my memory on paper since I could hold a pencil...

      Yes, but you've been cheating by using wide-ruled paper and double-spacing.

    • Pretty sure I was passing 1Mb per sheet when I was 9.

      When I got assigned sentences when I got in trouble I would write them as small as possible to be a little jerk.

  • Density (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @12:49PM (#47516395)

    What's the current density of machine-readable written information on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper?

    I'm going to guess more than a meg.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      What's the current density of read/write randomly-accessible information?

      • Re:Density (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:13PM (#47516587)

        Paper is already at least WORM, and depending on your format, randomly-accessible.

        I don't suggest that this isn't interesting, I'm just asking a question about machine readable printed information density.

        How many distinct characters or pixels can we reliably scan in from an 8.5x11 sheet of paper? What density of information allows us to have 4 or 8 or 16 or 256 colors of pixels?

        • Let's assume you carve your page up into 'pixels'. If each 'pixel' is one bit (2 colors or on or off) then you would have to have pixels of 100 microns (.1mm) on a side to have the same information density as this process. If each 'pixel' is 4 bits (16 colors) then your pixels would only have to be .2mm on a side to retain the same information density. I kind of doubt you could distinguish between 256 different colors reliably enough for computer reading of data under varying light conditions but if we assu

        • Re:Density (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Ravaldy ( 2621787 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:29PM (#47516711)

          I don't think most people understand the application for this.

          Printing RFIDs has existed for many years now (at least 10 that I know of) and is mostly used for quickly scanning contents of a box without having to handle each item inside of it. It is also used to track inventory leaving an area (e.g. a tool storage room).

          Adding memory to this equation means you can store data on the paper until the transaction is complete. I can't come up with a reason for this on the spot but I can imagine there are processes that could benefit from it.

          From a security standpoint you could store an encrypted password on the paper... Much easier than having to type a 256 character passcode.

          • Re:Density (Score:4, Insightful)

            by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:48PM (#47516857)

            Adding memory to this equation means you can store data on the paper until the transaction is complete. I can't come up with a reason for this on the spot but I can imagine there are processes that could benefit from it.

            But once you can uniquely identify each object (with a simple bar code or RFID), it's easy to associate any amount of information with it, in a database somewhere. The more ubiquitous network connectivity becomes, the more location transparency you have, and the less need to store information directly in a specific place.

            In short, this is a floppy disk, but on a paper backing.

            • Yes but there are situations where you have equipment with no access to networks. In those cases (and I realize it's less and less common) there is value in having the ability to store dynamic content on paper.

    • You could theoretically use other technologies as a baseline. One technology that comes to mind is how archivists are digitally printing information onto nickel plates because of it's durability. The data is then read back using an electron microscope. In theory if you could microprint binary data onto paper you could read it back with an electron microscope.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Um... assuming 1/4" nonprintable margin, a regular 300 dpi printer can do 8 * 10.5 * 300 * 300 = 7,560,000 bits = 945,000 Bytes in black and white. Multiply by 4 for 600 dpi or by 16 for 1200 dpi. Then multply by 4 for CYMK, and by another 16 if your printer can do 4-bit color.

      8 * 10.5 * 1200 * 1200 * 4 * 16 / 8 bits = 967,680,000 Bytes for a 1200 dpi 4-bit color laser printer. That's nearly 1GB.

      • We can obviously scan well above 1200dpi, but determining each printed pixel's true nature reading 1200dpi ink-on-paper would be challenging.

      • And if dpi directly translated to individual sprayed dots, that would be useful. Inkjet printers spray microdroplets that aren't strictly locked to the pixel grid. And CMYK are not all perfectly aligned with one another.

        Still, that inkjet printed page can't read itself. A circuit printed on the page could.

  • by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:02PM (#47516493)

    However, this technology will very probably disappear like so many others. Anyone remember the technology that allows you to store giga- to terrabytes of data on a few layers of Tesa strip? Read by laser without any moving parts, prototyped at a time when CDs were still the standard medium? Well, this never made it into a buyable product either.

    My humble theory is that market forces do not always promote the best solution. After all, why should corporations put something new on the market if it would give them less opportunities to rip you off in the long run? :-(

    The good news is that this technology has better chances of success than the Tesa strip solution, because ... ink cartridges! ;-)

    • Given that tape data storage refuses to die, I too have to wonder why there is not optical tape. Anyway, with this paper available, my 16kbyte ZX81 RAM pack is beginning to look dated, they could print it on a large postage stamp.
    • Ink? Nope. (Score:5, Funny)

      by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:25PM (#47516685) Journal

      because ... ink cartridges! ;-)

      Think milk cartons. That sing joyful tunes and jingles when you open your fridge.

      Packaging that remembers you - wherever you are.
      Which will give you your very own personal discount cause it knows that your milk carton at home is only just opened, but it knows from your profile that you like a bargain.

      Products will express you when you buy them, and sadness when you don't.
      They will be your friends. They will know your favorite things.
      They will love you like you were never loved by anyone else.
      Your dog will be jealous. Your cat will try to kill them.

      • I dread our future ad-riddled overlords.

      • that is the creepiest thing i've read all day.

      • Although... they may express FOR you.
        Like that box of condoms humming "Get Lucky" in your pocket all the time during your ride home.

      • On a side note... I've recently bought an Intel NUC, and when I opened the packaging the box started playing the Intel Jingle (*). Totally creepy and wasteful, I couldn't believe it. Intel definitely jumped the shark IMHO. I don't buy crap that often, is this common already?

        Oh and if any Intel engineers are reading this post, I'd love to hear what you think about that particular piece of genius.

        • Totally creepy and wasteful, I couldn't believe it.

          Marketing usually is.

          On the other hand... People love [] their singing [] boxes. []
          And you got to admit - it got you talking about it.

          Just like the talking packaging of the future will talk to you. Hey! People love when Siri does it!
          Just think of the joy of THAT from every shelve.

          And of people greeting their detergents and talking to them on their way to register.

  • by pegdhcp ( 1158827 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:02PM (#47516495)
    This should be a new component in electronics, right? "Memory" as a component! I should not stop reading periodicals after the school.Or maybe somebody should star reading such, before copy pasting crap...
    • a transistor by itself is not memory ... just as a gear by itself is not a clock. They have to be connected in specific ways to function as memory ... all the article is saying this is the first time that configuration has been done with print tech ... not that it couldn't have been done before, just that no-one had.
    • This is resistive random access memory, which is non-volatile. Yes, with transistor you could have printer other forms or RAM before, but you would have to keep supplying power or that memory would erase itself.

  • GREAT IDEA! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Hey! We could load programs on paper cards and use them to batch install/run programs in the future. Or instead of 8.5 x 11 paper, we could make a continuous stream of paper, like a tape, to read/write data to. The future looks bright!

  • Electronic memory printed on paper - how is that different from a magnetic strip - the same thing we used to call an 'audio tape'.
    • What I gather from this is that they managed to print the memory and the circuitry to read/write it. So, instead of requiring a mechanical transport and a magnetic head, you simply connect wires to contacts along the edge of the circuit, and use electrical signals to access the data, eliminating the need for moving components.
    • Re:Magnetic strip? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by esampson ( 223745 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:33PM (#47516741) Homepage

      Audio tape is sequential access, not random access. The same thing with the magnetic strip. Usually this isn't a problem because the magnetic strip on your card contains a very small amount of information so it is quick to read the entire sequence but if you had to sequentially load just 16k of information from a tape it could take some time.

      Ask anyone who had a home computer before floppy disks became available.

  • by rhazz ( 2853871 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:17PM (#47516617)
    If I store my MP3s on this sheet of paper and then photocopy it, is that copyright infringement?
    • You can't photocopy it.

    • by Falos ( 2905315 )
      > is that copyright infringement?
      Copyright lawyers have prepared the below flowchart to help identify what they will consider unauthorized copies or infringement that are potentially actionable:

      Is it a day that ends in 'y'?
      Then yes.

      Is it a day that doesn't end in 'y'?
      Then super yes.
  • by uCallHimDrJ0NES ( 2546640 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:22PM (#47516653) will be hard to get me to leave the breakfast table.

    I'm seeing a whole line of Atari cereals, and a competing line of Mattel Electronics Intellicereals. Maybe get Alan Alda and George Plimpton's faces on the boxes to keep the kids away from Dad's stuff.

    • by Thud457 ( 234763 )
      Man, don't be disregarding the tween-deterring visages of Isaac Asimov, William Shatner or Bill Cosby.
    • by hattig ( 47930 )

      It does seem that they nearly have all the ingredients to make a viable 8-bit computer on a (small) sheet of paper now. I guess an Atari 2600 could fit in a fairly small area with it's 128 bytes of RAM (1 cm^2) and other simple logic. This printed RAM access speed isn't great though - 200us is three orders of magnitude too slow compared to even the memory in those old computers. Hopefully shrinking these RAM dots will also improve speed.

  • by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:24PM (#47516679) Journal

    Well, if they come up with a scheme to encrypt the paper maybe it will finally be safe for all those lazy users to store their passwords on a post it note. Should be able to squeeze at least 640K onto a post it note, should be enough for anybody.

  • A whole MB? (Score:4, Funny)

    by clovis ( 4684 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:59PM (#47516923)

    640K should be enough for anyone.

  • I can see the advantages of cheap, relatively-high-speed paper RAM but remember, we've had high-density paper ROM since the age of micro-fine printing, and low-density paper ROM since the invention of, well, paper.

    We've also had very-slow-to-erase "eraseable ROM" on paper since the invention of the eraser.

    In prehistoric times, we had it was low-density ROM on cave walls.

  • AKA "Some tears fell on my diary, and now I've lost everything!"
  • I'm not sure how you couldn't just do the same thing with QR codes.

    That way you always grab (potentially) current data.

    Less expensive too.
    • by Andy_R ( 114137 )

      QR codes are write once and take a lot of processing power to read, the article is talking about reusable, electronically accessible memory.

      • QR codes are write once and take a lot of processing power to read, the article is talking about reusable, electronically accessible memory.

        Obviously written by someone without a powerful enough LASER.
        All you need is a webcam, a LASER and proper archival media.

        CHA []

  • 50 micron dot + 25 micron separation = 75 microns per bit, not 100.
  • Now your internet of things house will be able to remind you that you didn't quite use enough toilet paper.

    It'll be awesome, Text messages reminding you to wipe more.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama