back to article US team create carbon nanotube ultra-memory

US researchers have demonstrated a form of nanotube archival memory that can store a memory bit for a billion years, and has a theoretical trillion bits/square inch density. The researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley …


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  1. darkmooink

    to be exact

    its actually 10,457,355,285 years, 151 days, 1 hour and 4 minutes, give or take a few leap seconds

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I'm signing up for mine now

    You know how much storage pr0nz takes.....

  3. SuperTim

    I am sick of these nanotubes....

    Is there nothing they cannot do? I think they may be the next lego.....

  4. matt


    just knocked my laptop and reset all the bits to zero

  5. David

    Is this news?

    If you care to look at the ground beneath your feet with a microscope, you may observe that our immortal giant invisible overlords have been using this storage mechanism for 4 billion years already.

  6. Cullen Newsom
    Thumb Up

    Mechanical memory

    Isn't that something.

  7. E


    Gimme a hammer and a blowtorch and I can shorten the thing's lifetime considerably.

  8. Dave


    Is is my imagination or does the diagram on their site look like an abacus? Admittedly it's a really small abacus, but still. Next they'll make a nanotube difference engine and compete with Intel with a tiny mechanical processor...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I'm excited about it but

    I don't think P'll place my order just yet. I reckon it sounds like it should be a practical proposition about halfway through that lifetime figure.

  10. Tony Barnes
    Thumb Up


    Presumably reading is fast enough, but what about writing? You have to "shunt" it along the tube until it's past the goal post, which presumably means reading at the same time for error checking....

    Quality idea though!

  11. Paul Young
    Thumb Up

    May I be the first

    to welcome our tiny tiny, almost never forgetting, nanolords

  12. DirkGently

    Q: What's that?

    A: Oh that's what archaeologists call a Blue Screen Off Death.

  13. Graham Bartlett

    Engineering and fiction

    Dave, check out Neal Stephenson's novel "The Diamond Age" for ideas on that score. In the book, engineering has gone nano-scale, with devices that look like ultra-small versions of old-school Victorian engineering - all pushrods and valves and stuff like that.

    Incidentally, there are several things that the article avoids mentioning, hence the other reason for the "fiction" in the title. Yeah, this thing can hold its state for umpty-tum zillion years, and that's great. But it takes about 3s for a bit to change state (according to their data), which seriously limits its usefulness for any purpose except offline backups. They also don't mention anything about how many times it can change state over its lifespan, which is a *very* important issue for a mechanical system. And nor have they checked anything about this thing's stability when it's in an environment with electric fields created by other devices, which is a bit like saying "this amazing ice cube will last for a trillion years without melting" and leaving out the disclaimer of "... if I keep it stored in a freezer for a trillion years".

  14. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Masters of Reality ....... BetaTesting Rock Chips...... Victoria Falls

    "The researchers say these steps are compatible with common semiconductor manufacturing techniques."

    Now that is known in AI Circles as Convenient IntelAIgent Design.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I look forward to the upcoming 100tb iPod Shuffle.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Sureo


    My 5 month old Seagate 1TB hard drive croaked last week and had to be replaced. Give me carbon nanotube memory any time.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    A question?

    Can one buy shares in the company developing this technology?

  19. CreamyInTheMiddle
    Thumb Down

    1 Trillion bits?

    So that's a little over a 100 gigabytes. Meh. It's cool, but it's not like it's gonna change the world.

  20. Cliff

    nanotubes are ace

    Just to think, less than 20-ish years ago, we were all taught at school that carbon was available as either diamond or graphite. That's pretty damn clever.

  21. Blue Pumpkin

    Oh dear

    To think we've rediscovered the technology that the those aliens of Rong L Cubbard used in an attempt to transfer all their knowledge to us.

    Shame that we thought of it as just coal, never mind ...

  22. Kevin Rudd

    Rosetta stone

    As long as someone leaves a big rock nearby carved with info with on how to interpret the data, this will be a great way to archive the tragic history of humanity for a time when intelligent life forms finally evolve (or land from outer space) that can make use of it.

  23. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Of course!

  24. Steve Swann


    "The nano-structure was created in a single step by pyrolysis of ferrocene in argon at 1,000 degreees C. The created nanotube elements are dispersed in isopropanol ultrasonically and deposited on a substrate with electrical contacts applied to the ends of the nanotube."

    Straight forward enough! Thanks for making that so clearly understandable!

  25. David

    Re: SuperTim

    Yes, lots of things, like the space elevator for a start.

    I'm frankly embarrassed that physicists working on these kind of projects are so poorly trained that they don't understand some of the most fundamental concepts of materials engineering (which almost any physics student in this country will tell you is nothing more than physics with all the hard maths taken out).

    Fundamental concepts like... the equilibrium concentration of thermal defects, fracture mechanics, sp2/sp3 hybridization and all those other 'little' problems affecting the scaling of the achievable mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes. When it's 2nm long it's all fine and good at 1/3 of the theoretical strength, but when the strongest carbon structure past 2mm is weaker than the majority of low-grade steels and still hellishly difficult to make... well, draw your own conclusions.

    Have a quick read of the 'Gigatubes' section of this, if you want a much better scientists' explanation;

    I don't dispute that materials on the sub micro-scale have behaviours that are exciting and unusual, but the very nature of the beast means that they don't scale very well. You can have one end or the other. Not both.

  26. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Off the Rails for a Roam ...... into Contemporary Phish Phormations

    ""The nano-structure was created in a single step by pyrolysis of ferrocene in argon at 1,000 degreees C. The created nanotube elements are dispersed in isopropanol ultrasonically and deposited on a substrate with electrical contacts applied to the ends of the nanotube."

    Straight forward enough! Thanks for making that so clearly understandable!" .... By Steve Swann Posted Tuesday 9th June 2009 06:57 GMT

    Sounds like Python on Sticky Speed and Sweet Ruby Red Wine, Steve.

    And QuITe Perfect for whenever the Future is Steered by what we do Today with what we know of Tomorrow, with the Past only a Never to Return Proxy Memory Occupying the Minds of the Slow-Witted as they are EduTained Sublimely to a Higher Beta Operating Standard.

  27. Paul McConkey

    @Bazza - don't trust your discs

    Here's a link to a CERN paper that describes research that they have done of the stability of their (disc) storage systems. They reckon that their system has silent bit errors in the 10^-7 range. This seems small, but a terabyte of disc may have 3 corrupted files at this rate. What is worse is that you won't know that the files are corrupt - all the error detection has been defeated by the scale of the storage.

    Less scientific review of the paper:

  28. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

    @ Graham Bartlett

    I think you've missed the standard caveat that this *years* and *years* away from being practical.

    I agree that this is meant for long term storage and to answer you question about stability, you could always shield the chip such that you limit the amount of electric noise exposure, except to the electric currents that you want.

    If they can shrink the length of the tube, increase the sensitivity of their measurements, it will be faster.

    Imagine if they can, when writing, 'shoot' the metal particle to one wall or the other. Then you have you 1/0 state easily read. My guess is that its the length of tube that helps give it the really long data lifespan. If they shorten it, will it at least last 1000 years? If so, and Moore's law kind of holds, they can probably figure out how to make it small, fast and last a billion years with a couple of decades.

    Too bad anyone trying to read it in a billion years will probably lack the technology...

  29. Stuart Halliday

    The smaller it is, the easier it is to go wrong

    I hope they take consideration of background radiation?

    The smaller they make the memory cell the easier it is for a single particle to alter a whole bit.

    I'd love to see what a bolt of ordinary static electricity would also do to this device.

  30. Alan Newbury

    That long??

    Great - That means I can now store my music long enough for it to enter the public domain!

  31. Paris Hilton

    I for one welcome our Nano Overlords..

    With there Carbon Nanotube Railguns...

    Hmm.. wonder what velocity these projectiles can reach by accidental static discharge???

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