Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Nano Entrepreneur -- Part II

Nanotechnology and Data Storage

A computer-literate friend once told me, "You’ll never, ever need a hard drive bigger than 175 megs." Those were the days when hard drives were just beginning to replace those big, flexible floppy disks. My short-sighted friend didn’t see what was coming -- storage devices that hold gigabytes...terabytes...of information, and palm-sized devices that hold all of your word processing files, spreadsheets, pictures, music and movies.

Data storage is getting bigger and better. And we'll need more tomorrow.

Nanotechnology has had, and will continue to have, a revolutionary effect on data storage -- it might lead to high-density storage with life expectancy of a billion years. In 2004, revenues from data storage based on nanotechnology totaled $97 million. By 2011, that figure might reach $65.7 billion. And as each innovation occurs, opportunities will pop up for entrepreneurs who have the insight and passion to transform these new ideas into viable consumer products.

Following a pivotal breakthrough (an "atomic switch"), Colossal Storage Corporation, an R&D company that focuses on 2D Spintronic and 3D Holographic Optical Nanostorage, has patented a 100-terabyte, 3.5-inch disk.  The company feels that's just the leading edge of where their technology will take them. 

Researchers in Israel combined a natural protein with clusters of silicon nanoparticles to create arrays of stored bits of information as close as 11 nanometers apart.

A University of Michigan engineering researcher used self-assembling nanoparticles to fabricate negative index materials (NIM) with complex geometries and structures of higher order. A "superlens" made from NIM will likely have applications in the manufacture of smaller and faster chips, and data storage devices of multiple-terabyte capacity.

Nantero and Hewlett-Packard are leaders in nano data storage. Nantero has developed a carbon nanotube-based crossbar memory called Nano-RAM (a high-density nonvolatile  RAM), and Hewlett-Packard is exploring the use of memristor material (a passive two-terminal circuit element that maintains a functional relationship between the time integrals of current and voltage), which the company sees as a future replacement of flash memory.

It's ironic that the infinitesimal world of nanotechnology is becoming the basis for vast quantities of data storage. And it's a testament to the power of technology and the insight of entrepreneurs that at one time, not so terribly long ago, I could buy only flexible floppy discs, and then a 175-meg hard drive ("more storage than I would ever need"), but now there's enough memory on one disc to hold five Libraries of Congress -- enough, I imagine, to render my nearsighted computer friend speechless.

Next, "The Nano Entrepreneur – Part III, Nanotechnology and Green Energy."