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Less wear, longer life for memory storage device

13 September 2012

Probe storage devices read and write data by making nanoscale marks on a surface through physical contact, but current probes have limited lifespans due to mechanical wear.

A 3D schematic of the ultra-high-density probe memory device (photo courtesy of Noureddine Tayebi/Intel Corporation)

Now, a research team, led by Intel Corp., has developed a long-lasting ultra-high-density probe storage device by coating the tips of the probes with a thin metal film. The team’s device features an array of 5,000 ultrasharp probes that is integrated with on-chip electronic circuits.

The probes write tiny bits of memory as small as a few nanometers by sending short electrical pulses to a ferroelectric film, a material that can be given a permanent electric polarisation by applying an electric field.

High-speed data access requires that the probes slide quickly and frequently across the film. To prevent tip wear, which can seriously degrade the write-read resolution of the device, the researchers deposited a thin metal film of hafnium diboride (HfB2) on the probe tips.

As the researchers describe in an article published in the American Institute of Physics’ journal Applied Physics Letters, the metal film reduces wear and enables the probe tips to retain their write-read resolution at high speeds for distances exceeding 8km – greatly increasing the device’s lifetime.

The data densities of the device exceed 1 Terabit per square inch. The work is deemed an important step toward the commercialisation of a probe-based storage technology with capacities that exceed those of hard disk and solid-state drives.

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