Single molecule technology could finally break Moore’s law and allow
gadgets to store huge amounts of data on
tiny flash storage cards. Chemists behind the new molecules say the
new technology could help solve the looming flash storage
Flash memory, used in nearly all of our favourite
gadgets, is hampered by the physical limits of data cells, which
currently use metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) components. These are
almost impossible to manufacture at a scale below ten nanometers,
setting an upper limit on the how much can be stored.
Scientists have now claimed a
breakthrough in the use of individual molecules as a replacement
for conventional data-storage components. The benefits are massive,
or rather very small, with huge amounts of data potentially being
stored on tiny flash memory units.
The team from the University of Glasgow and Rovira i
Virgili University in Spain have successfully designed and
synthesised new molecules that work in a similar way to
transistors. The new metal-oxide clusters, known as
polyoxometalates (POMs), are detailed in the journal Nature.
Professor Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow,
who led the research team, said that the new technology had
“The incorporation of molecules will allow us to
further scale down and extend Moore’s
law and potentially even go beyond this with multiple bits of
storage per single molecule,” he told WIRED.co.uk.
“One major benefit of the POMs we’ve created is that
it’s possible to fabricate them with devices which are already
widely-used in industry, so they can be adopted as new forms of
flash memory without requiring production lines to be expensively
Previous attempts to develop these high-tech molecules
have been hampered by significant barriers. Low thermal stability
and high resistance have both limited their use in existing gadgets.
Flash memory uses transistors that “remember” when
they’ve been turned on or off, even when no longer powered. These
transistors correspond to binary, allowing data to be stored. The
researchers have now been able to design, synthesise and control
POM molecules that can catch a charge and behave in the same way as
The new technology could also provide a more secure
way to store sensitive information. Known as “write-once-erase” the
method of storage would make it impossible to recover secret data
once it has been deleted, researchers claimed.
With the work still in the early stages, it isn’t
clear when this technology will be market-ready.