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Smaller data dots mean much bigger disks

The future looks bleak for traditional hard drives

Materials researchers in the US have come up with a new kind of storage medium that promises tiny devices capable of holding terabytes of information.

Thomas Russell of Massachusetts University and Ting Xu from the University of California, Berkley have developed nanotechnology techniques that pack around

15 times as many bits of data

in a given area as current methods allow.

Super-dense data

They did this by effectively getting silicon or sapphire crystals to arrange themselves into optimum configurations for data density.

Existing ways of etching data-storing dots onto silicon are approaching their limits because the wavelength of the light used to do so is bigger than the dots needed.

Size of a coin

The method created by Xu and Russell promises more than 10 trillion data bits in an area the size of a coin – that would be enough to hold 250 DVD movies.

Although the theory is in place, nothing commercial is imminent, as reliable ways to read from and write to the material haven't been worked out. Should that happen, we can all expect our iPods to get a lot smaller and our storage abilities exponentially greater.