Magazine article Science News

Multiplying Computer Memories into 3-D

Magazine article Science News

Multiplying Computer Memories into 3-D

Article excerpt

Multiplying computer memories into 3-D

A flat, optical memory chip the size of a postage stamp could theoretically store 350 million bits of information, or more than seven years' worth of SCIENCE NEWS. Two chemists now propose a strategy for making a three-dimensional, sugar-cube-sized memory box that might store more than 6 trillion bits, or about 130,000 years' worth of the magazine.

Squeezing voluminous memory into tiny packages will be crucial for keeping future generations of supercomputers small and cheap enough for routine use, suggest Peter M. Rentzepis and Dimitri A. Parthenopoulos of the University of California, Irvine, in the Aug. 25 SCIENCE. They propose embedding so-called photochromic chemicals, which change color when briefly illuminated, inside transparent plastic cubes and using lasers to record data as tiny colored and uncolored dots in the cube, creating a binary code. Conventional memory devices store such codes electronically, magnetically or as physical bumps or grooves.

"We have shown that the idea works," says Rentzepis. The scientists have made their first experimental memory cubes and recorded a few bits of data, which appear as tiny blue dots. "We are far, far away from being able to write" trillions of data bits, Rentzepis stresses.

"Three-dimensional memory devices are the Holy Grail of information storage," says computer scientist John P. Riganati of Washington, D.C., who serves on the supercomputer committee of the Institute of electrical and Electronics Engineers. …

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