Almost everyone owns a nice collection of flash drives. Why not? They are incredibly useful, allowing us to easily transfer files from one location to another and to store our files in a small space that can easily be kept in a pocket or on a keychain. Is it possible for portable storage to get even smaller and to make flash drives obsolete? According to a synthetic organic chemist, Dr. James M. Tour, we will have to find a way.
It Can Get Smaller
Dr. Tour says that we will only be able to make flash drive smaller and more powerful for around 6-7 more years before we reach an unbreakable technological barrier. In preparation for this day, Dr. Tour and his team have already developed a new type of storage. This memory chip, according to Tour, will be able to replace flash in smart phones, computers, and portable drives. The chip they have developed will hold much more data in a small space and will be foldable, just like paper. In addition, it is clear, which means the screens of computers and cell phones could also serve as memory for the device. Finally, the new chip can withstand temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the early stages, prototypes of the chip were made of carbon-based material, such as graphene, and layered over what was believed to be an inert layer of silicon oxide as an insulator. During research, however, the researchers found that the graphene wasn’t necessary to the construction and that the silicon oxide was active. Getting a flash drive would be great for an on the go police officer.
These new chips are created with two terminals for each bit of information, less than the three terminals per bit of traditional chips. This capability allows for components to be arranged three-dimensionally, providing a much higher amount of storage within the same physical area. What this means for us is that we will have smaller drives and memory with a much higher capability.
As impressive as these facts are, the thing that has manufacturers so interested is the high on-off ratio. The ratio of this new chip is around one million to one and measures how much electrical current the chip can handle when storing information as opposed to its empty state. Manufacturers are also excited about the possibilities of this transparent yet flexible material. Having the ability to combine touchscreens with memory while also making screens more flexible and less fragile opens a world of manufacturing possibilities. These capabilities will open up more internal space for components and will allow for the creation of even thinner devices.
This new material is so promising that its uses may not be limited to use in cell phones and tablets. Some manufacturers and researchers are speculating the possibilities of its use on vehicle windshields for heads-up displays. Currently, Dr. Tour is hoping to send some of the chips to the International Space Station this July so they can be tested in high radiation conditions. He is also in talks with electronics manufacturers about getting the chips into production in a variety of devices.
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