300 Million Tunes On One MP3 Player

Posted on: 17 April 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Music lovers could be listening to super iPods with a million GB of memory, thanks to nanotechnology.

The storage capacity of an iPod could increase 150,000 times, as a result of a breakthrough by scientists from the University of Glasgow.

Nanotechnology researchers have developed a molecule-sized switch which means that data storage can be dramatically increased without the need to increase the size of devices.

Professor Lee Cronin and Dr Malcolm Kadodwala's work would see 500,000 gigabytes squeezed onto one square inch. The current limit for the space is around 3.3 gigabytes.

Apple's iPod classic is available with up to 160GB of storage - that's about 40000 songs.

The researchers believe that their development could see the number of transistors per chip rising from today's limit of 200 million to well over one billion.

"What we have done is find a way to potentially increase the data storage capabilities in a radical way," says Professor Lee Cronin.

"We have been able to assemble a functional nanocluster that incorporates two electron donating groups, and position them precisely 0.32 nm apart so that they can form a totally new type of molecular switching device. This is unprecedented and provides a route to produce new a molecule-based switch that can be easily manipulated using an electric field."

"By taking these nano-scale clusters, just a nanometer in size, and placing them onto a gold or carbon, we can control the switching ability. Not only is this a new type of switchable molecule, but by grafting the molecule on to metal (gold) or carbon means that we can potentially bridge the gap between traditional semiconductor devices and components for nanoscale plastic electronics.

"The key advantage of the molecule sized switch is information / transistor density in traditional semi-conductors. Molecule sized switches would lead to increasing data storage to say 4 Petabits per square inch."

Although this breakthrough shows that a super MP3 player is possible in theory, the scientists have yet to solve problems with organising the memory and producing the components.

However silicon is not needed because the switches work on carbon which means that they could be embedded in plastic chips. They are little balls of metal oxide so they are made of similar material to normal semi-conductors, but are much easier to manipulate as individual molecular units.

"The system becomes much more flexible both physically and technologically," explains Cronin.

The breakthrough was reported in this month's edition of Nature Nanotechnology.

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