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12.8 Petabytes, You Say? 205

Posted by Hemos
from the will-it-happen dept.
MadUndergrad writes "Dr. Jonathan Spanier from Drexel University has come up with a novel way to greatly increase data storage density: water. Specifically, they propose using hydroxyl ions to stabilize minute ferroelectric wires. These wires could be many times smaller than what is possible today, enabling data densities in the neighborhood of 12-13 PB per cubic centimeter. While there are still many problems to be resolved before drives using these can be manufactured this technology does seem promising. For one thing, it would be non-volatile, but could apparently be made to act as RAM. The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor."
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12.8 Petabytes, You Say?

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  • Bah (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:12PM (#15301626)
    To me this idea sounds a little wet.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:13PM (#15301629)


    A physics professor and his assistant are working on liberating negatively charged hydroxyl ions, when all of a sudden, the assistant says, "Wait, Professor! What if the salicylic acids do not accept the hydroxyl ions?" And the professor responds, "That's no hydroxyl ion! That's my wife!"
  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:14PM (#15301635)
    I did not read the article, but I would imagine the usage would be limited by temperature ranges, for that matter, even simple exposure of the components.

    Imagine a device with this technology submitted to freezing temperatures?
    • by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:17PM (#15301659) Homepage Journal
      Good point, but they're dealing with water at the nanoscale level. In this scale, water molecules act like glue. Besides, after reading another article on water running thru nanotubes below the freezing temperature, I think it's not possible for so water to form ice at the nanoscale.
      • by Amouth (879122)
        All you need for ice is enough water molecules for them to form a crystalline structure. (hit - not many I think 4-6) but water does have a wonderful property.. it doesn't freeze if it is moving..
    • even simple exposure of the components.

      That would apply to much of current technology anyway. The time is pretty much over when you could use a hard drive while it was open. The last hard drives larger than 20 GB or so that I've opened have completely broke more or less by just opening the lid for a while and closing it again, because so much as a speck of dust on the platter will result in a head crash.

      Likewise, you can't really hope to expose the "components" of a microchip and expect it to work afte

  • by pryonic (938155) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:14PM (#15301640)
    It'd be pretty annoying if you came back from a run/heavy night's drinking (delete as suits you) and accidentally drank the backup of all your MP3s and pr0n to rehydrate you...
  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:16PM (#15301654) Journal
    I can't believe they would be so irresponsible as to use dihydrogen monoxide [dhmo.org] for data storage. That stuff is deadly!
    • Re:DMHO is deadly! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kaetemi (928767)
      I can't believe they would be so irresponsible as to use electricity to power a computer. That stuff is deadly!
    • It's no more deadly than hydric acid, which is the primary ingredient in many household cleaners.
    • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:56PM (#15301981) Homepage Journal
      Doctors and scientists tell us that DHMO is so pervasive in our environment that it can be found in every factory, every business, even every house, in our food and in our bodies! Tests confirm that all softdrinks and bottled water contain large amounts of DHMO. You can even find it in baby formula!

      The average adult has something like 5x10^16 picograms of this stuff in his or her body, which is a much higher concetration than the EPA safe levels for lead, asbestos or most industrial solvents.

      Won't someone please think of the children?!

      • Luckily studies on Mars and Earth's moon have thus far turned up no DHMO. If we can manage to make travel to the moon and the planets cheap and effective, there is hope for humanity.
        • Not entirely true... I believe there's evidence of frozen DHMO at the poles of the Moon. I think maybe it Clementine that helped find that. WRT Mars, it might be buried underground, after all something made those riverbeds, and it was probably laced with lots of DHMO.

          Mercury, however, is almost certainly uncontaminated.
  • by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:18PM (#15301671) Homepage Journal
    this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor.

    Until the heat sink fails.
  • Misplaced Optimism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:18PM (#15301673)
    "The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor."

    Um... the fact that this is coming from a university suggests to ME that it might be highly impractical, but of some academic interest.

    I mean, "university" may rank above "wacky fly-by-night startup looking to fleece investors" on the ol' Trust-o-meter, but the fact that a few academics are studying something certainly doesn't mean it's even potentially viable as a commercial product.
    • by NetDanzr (619387) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:52PM (#15301946)
      Um... the fact that this is coming from a university suggests to ME that it might be highly impractical, but of some academic interest.

      I fully agree. Having spent the last two years working in a business incubator associated with a major research university, I found the following life cycle of new technologies to be true in 95% of cases:

      1. Invent something, file an invention disclosure with the university and ask for patenting the idea.
      2. File for all grants you can get.
      3. Once you run out of grants, declare your intention to commercialize the technology.
      4. Secure some start-up funding, primarily in the form of SBIR/STTR grants and angel funding.
      5. Once funding is received, declare that the technology is not yet ready and go back to the lab to write more papers on your technology.
      6. Repeat and rinse.

      I've seen some really ground-breaking technologies in action. One was proven to decrease the level of emissions by 95%. Another promised to replace current heat sinks with a new design that would eliminate computer fans. Yet another has been around since the 1950s; the lead researcher has invented when he was a grad student. Unfortunately, most researchers at the school I was working at were aware of the fact that in the long term having a technology to work on for another decade or more was more lucrative than starting a company and ending with a miniscule ownership share after venture financing.

      • That's the way of things. 95% of all "inventions" turn out not to be such a big deal, or to have practical problems that prevent them from mattering.

        There's no alternative though, you gotta fund the 19 sucky inventions to find the one thats gonna work.

        I agree it sucks that frequently the publich funds the 20 investors, and shoulders the loss on the 19 non-working ones, only to see the remaining successful invention benefit some corporation that hires the prof (or that the prof starts) rather than those

  • electrolysis? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fishyfool (854019) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:19PM (#15301677) Homepage Journal
    the water will have to be de-mineralized to eliminate conductivity.
      whats left is oxygen and hydrogen, with the electricity in the wires running through the wires be strong enough to create electrolysis?
    thats not what i'd call non-volatile.
    • An Excellent Point (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TheThirdRider (956714)
      that is a very valid point, i work in a nanotech lab. we are working on a project invoving CNTs carbon nanotubes) electrified in water. because of nanotube unique properties, any electrical field is greatly amplified. the small surface area of the nanotubes creates areas of extremely high voltage that can easily cause electrolysis.
  • Vaporware? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmcharry (608079) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:19PM (#15301679)
    Prof. Jonathan Spanier is in Materials Engineering, so I would bet this is a lab demonstration of an effect that might be developed into a technology, not something likely to appear on store shelves in a year or two. Still, it is an important first step in that direction.
  • Obnoxious Cynicism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jsailor (255868) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:19PM (#15301686)
    Sorry to be so cynical, but why do you put more merit behind something from a University? They're competing for research dollars and don't actually have to produce anything that works in the field or that they'll have to support for many years. In much the same way that corporations extend/enhance the truth to attract customers, Universities extend/enhance the truth to attract grants.

    Despite what my tone may reflect, I'm very curious to your thought process.

    • Hm... how's this for a start. If you're a university researcher and you'd like a grant, you apply. Your application is reviewed, by experts in the field who are probably THEMSELVES competing with you for grants.

      If you're a guy in his garage (or some company's garage) or even a whole company and you'd like to get some funding for your project or create some hype in the market to get investors, you write a report/press release, which is reviewed by managers/venture capitalists/the public, the majority of w
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:21PM (#15301704)
    "The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor."

    You haven't attended university on our planet, have you?
  • Best tasting mineral water I've ever had! Has a funny aftertaste though...
  • University (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linuxwrangler (582055) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:22PM (#15301723)
    The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor.


    Like Pons & Fleishman's cold fusion? Like the recent Korean cloning fiasco? Like the forestry research papers that were pulled because of political and corporate pressure? Like so many others that have been in the recent news?

    Problem is that scientists and researchers can be corrupted by fame, fortune or pressure just like other humans.

    I'm not saying that this technology is bogus - I know nothing about the technology or the people involved. But the fact that it comes from a university doesn't offer any special guarantees in my book.
    • Like Pons & Fleishman's cold fusion? Like the recent Korean cloning fiasco? Like the forestry research papers that were pulled because of political and corporate pressure? Like so many others that have been in the recent news?

      Yes, just like those. The statement by MadUndergrad was, 'this gives me hope', not 'this must be true'.

      You make a good point, that science is always evolving, and that we should not stop questioning.... but in a very antagonistic way... could it be...

      Problem is that scienti


      • Ahhhh! I get it, you're one of those! "I hear the jury's still out on this Science thing." Tell me, which is your particular axe: is it Darwinism, or climate change? And by all means, set me straight if I have this wrong somehow. We are interested in the truth here, after all.


        I wish I had a mod point to give you!
      • Don't forget to ask him to turn in all the products of science that he uses.
      • Ahhhh! I get it, you're one of those! "I hear the jury's still out on this Science thing."

        Absolutely, unequivocally not.

        I'm one of those people that understands that conforming to the principles of the scientific method is a very different thing than being called a scientist.

        And fortunately over time the scientific method works quite well. A hypothesis is formed, gets tested, revised, and is peer-reviewed. Predictions can be correctly based on the hypothesis. It becomes a theory, etc.

        People who claim to be

        • I revere the scientific method and the advances it has brought to human civilization. If something proves true I don't care if it was discovered at a university, a corporation or by the local dog catcher. I admire the work of the many people required to test, retest, refine and prove the idea. However I don't think that the mere fact that the researcher, in this case, works at a university is any reason to raise my expectation level of technological success.

          Fair enough, thanks for the response. I don't q

      • Forestry research papers? I missed that one. Care to enlighten me?
    • Re:University (Score:3, Informative)

      by MustardMan (52102)
      As a Drexel alumnus, I can say with a fair bit of confidence... most of the faculty there have absolutely no moral fiber, and the university is run by a money grubbing asshole who is actually PROUD that he runs it like a business, and not an institute of higher learning.

      Get corrupted? Most people there are already corrupt. The little media contact at the bottom of the press release (Phil Teranova) is a manipulative bastard who would stab his mother in the back if it could make him a dime.
      • As a current Drexel student (in the Materials Engineering department no less), I've got to believe you weren't in the CoE. While I can't speak for the experience of others, my experience there has been nothing short of positive.

        But our department is also very good. We have great faculty and it's small enough so that you actually get to know pretty much everybody.

        BTW - Taki's not so bad, having actually talked to him in person.
        • as a member of DUST, I worked directly for taki on numerous occasions. He's scum of the earth. He represents all that is soulless and wrong.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:26PM (#15301751)
    Imagine an iPod playing music for 100 millennia without repeating a single song

    Thats great until during that 100 millenia you encounter the next Ice Age, it freezes stopping its data transfer to only playing one song, "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher
      - for eternity.
  • Man...there's so much wrong with this article.

    The RAM/NVRAM thing for one... RAM is for speed; NVRAM (including disk drives with random-access method drivers) is for persistent storage. There's no reason to believe that the two won't be the same, but there's also no information given here showing that this stuff is as fast as any RAM.

    Thermodynamics for another.

    The scaling of density figures ignoring spacing elements.

    When did /. become Popular Science?
  • Core memory LIVES! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jhines (82154) <john@jhines.org> on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:27PM (#15301765) Homepage
    It sounds like the magnetic core memory of the old days.
  • HAR HAR HAR (Score:3, Insightful)

    by flamingdog (16938) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:27PM (#15301767) Homepage
    Sweet Jesus, is this article's sole purpose to be fodder for bad vaporware jokes?

    Start cranking 'em out, folks.
  • by JohnnyGTO (102952) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:29PM (#15301776) Homepage
    called that spreadsheet!!



    User: Hey Clippy search for .xls files containing "2006 budget"

    Clippy: I see, you want me to spend the rest of eternity searching 13 petabytes for your stupid spreadsheet??! I quit!! User: This maybe the first effective way to get rid of that little twerp.

  • by blackcoot (124938) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:30PM (#15301791)

    The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor.

    <rant>i don't think the poster has worked with many universities. my experience with using them as subs on r & d projects has been highly mixed — occasionally, you'll find a group that just rocks. the problem is that the remaining 7-9 out of 10 times, you end up just replacing the components that the university was supposed to deliver because they either (a) failed to deliver anything at all (not uncommon) or (b) delivered code that was so horrendously broken that it was less effort to redo their pieces than to shepherd them through the process of fixing things.</rant>

    before i'm flamed to death: please note that i didn't say all universities suck (and in particularly, i didn't imply that your university sucks).

  • by gone.fishing (213219) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:31PM (#15301793) Journal
    Does this mean that the operating temp range will be 32F - 212F (0C-100C)?

    I would have said, If this is vaporware I'd be steamed...

    I suppose this will give a whole new meaning to the term "The computer froze up"!

    Will we litterally need a bit bucket for overflow?

    I better stop now.
  • Bad physics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:32PM (#15301809)
    Without commenting on the competence of the researcher, whoever wrote the press release doesn't have the first idea what they're talking about.

    "Ferroelectric materials possess spontaneous and reversible electric dipole moments. These dipole moments are times when the material gains a charge, in this case an electric one. For example, the Earth's magnetic field generates a dipole moment that causes compasses to face north"

    First sentence is correct. Second sentence is baloney. A dipole moment is not anything to do with time, and an electric dipole moment does not mean a material gains a net charge, although it might correspond to a charge developing on a certain surface. Third sentence: the dipole moments associated with the earth's magnetization are nothing to do with the dipole moments in a ferroelectric material. The former are the result of intrinsic magnetic moments in atoms, the latter the result of differing charge distributions in materials. Similar names, completely different things.
    • At my university, press releases aren't written by the researchers. Rather, they're written by people whose job it is to dumb them down for the general populace and insert buzzwords for corporations. The result is often that the press releases are misleading, a fact which the researchers recognize, but cannot rectify. For example, one electrical engineering professor was just telling me about how one such release talked about the quantum computing applications of a novel device, even though the professor ha
  • 12-13 PB per cubic centimeter.

    And what's the density of current storage? While it has a lot of square centimeters, current coatings are rather thin. What would a cubic centimeter of current magnetic disc storage store?

    • by tomstdenis (446163)
      In the storage world it matters little how densely you can STORE things. It matters how densely you can READ things.

      If you stacked the platters you'd get a lot of density but you can't read it because the arm won't fit between two touching plates.

      Tom
    • by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @02:35PM (#15302850) Journal
      The Cubic Centimeters are the real secret to high density storage!

      They just give you lots of little boxes to pour your data into. When you fill up about 10 of 'em, you just slap some duck tape on them, scribble a half-ass lable with a tiny magic marker, pack it into your Tonka truck with about 10 others, and push it to the other side of the data center. I call this last part the Tonka Transport Layer (TTL), and it offers the highest transfer rates in the history of networking!

      The RFC requires that you make 'VROOM! VROOM!' noises and smash it into at least one cow-orker's foot along the way. My 5 year old has already mastered this technology.
  • Yay for Anime fans !

    It has become too difficult to cope with all these hoards of anime - no hard disks ever big enough, no cd writer fast enough -

    Cavalry on the way it seems. We can speed up 'acquisition' of anime eh ?
  • They have returned core dump [wikipedia.org] to its original meaning! Now THAT is what I call good science!
  • ...But for some reason when I plugged it in my computer started shooting sparks out of the USB port.
    What did I do wrong?
  • by JackL (39506) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @01:01PM (#15302015)
    The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor.

    I was going to write just how incorrect this statement is, but after reading previoius comments, I feel I need to defend academic research instead of bash it.

    The reason why academic research is not likely to pump out an actual product is because it is not the goal of academic research to create a commercially viable project. The goal is usually to explore the basic underpinnings of something of interest, in this case the possibility of hydroxyl ions to stabilize minute ferroelectric wires. Corporations come along later and add engineering to those principles and produce the products we use.

    Those who are saying that academic researchers are con men [slashdot.org] in search of funding [slashdot.org] are overstating their case. There are examples of cheating and overstating cases in academic research but they are rare. There are also examples of corporations doing basic research, but they are becoming more rare, too. Bell Labs has all but disappeared, IBM hasn't won my Nobels lately.

    Academic research does what it does very very well and quite cheaply (see how much a grad student makes compared to well, anything, really). Corporatations do their research well, too. Just don't confuse the two.

    Jack
    • The goal is usually to explore the basic underpinnings of something of interest,

      I think you misspelled "bring in grant money" and "write publishable papers."

      If the grants happen to go to, or the papers happen to be written by, somebody who's interested in the subject, that's a bonus. It's not required.

      • Considering how little professors (not to mention grad students) are paid, I expect most have an interest in the subject otherwise they'd have gotten regular jobs rather than spend their early twenties getting paid nothing, mid and late twenties getting paid a couple of percent more than a McDonalds front line worker and the rest of their lives getting paid less to somewhat more than that teenager's manager.
  • The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor.
    If you calculate the power density required to read/write that data, "vapor" is quite likely exactly what you're likely to get. If it happened to me, I'd be steamed; if it happened to $SIGNIFICANT_OTHER I'd be in really hot water.
  • When I saw 12.8 Petabytes I was hoping those were the stats of some new under 99$ SATA Hard Drive. Ah well, I can dare to dream!
  • or this is the first product that becomes vaporware after its implementation.
  • Disk surfaces are measured in area, not volume...so if you were to plate that out in a thin layer...how much area/petabyte?

    This doesn't address the problem of access, but mere layout. How many cc's of whatever the storage material is does a current high capacity disk contain? I'd wager not many. The desire is generally for as thin a layer as possible to reduce the size of the magnetic domains. Disks used to be metal, but now they're glass (lagely) because of this.
    • I'm going to imagine that this might not be applied in the current spinning platter method, but I CBA to RTFA. Let's be realistic, though, nobody needs to back up the entire internet *twice* on their hard drive. I know this'll bite me in the ass five years from now, but 12.8PB is enough for anyone.
  • Any of you Petaphiles have a picture of how this is supposed to work?
  • Start defraging this disk when your child is born and it will be ready when they go to college!
  • hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor.

    Hope they keep the temp under 212F - or it'll all be vapor

  • Support for the research at Drexel is from the Army Research Office and at Harvard and at Penn from the National Science Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Dreyfus Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the Center for Piezoelectric Design.

    I guess if it really does give 12 petabytes, it will be restricted to classified army usage *only*...
  • The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor."

    Yeah, if this effort ended up in failure, I'd be steamed too.

  • Even if it were possible to turn this technology into a commercial venture, I don't think it would be allowed to see the light of day. The article tempts the reader to imagine the following products:

    Imagine having computer memory so dense that a cubic centimeter contains 12.8 million gigabytes (GB) of information.

    Imagine an iPod playing music for 100 millennia without repeating a single song or a USB thumb-drive with room for 32.6 million full-length DVD movies.

    In reality, if someone brought a product

  • Now we'll have a place to put our Petafiles!

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