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Nanotechnology: The Future is Now

Dan E. Linstedt, BeyeNETWORK

This article originally appeared on the

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Nanotechnology spans multiple sectors, along with multiple traditional technology chains. Nanotech has permeated all walks of life and research because of the foundation of nanotech; that is: the atom. Since the atom spans all known elements today, it is safe to say that nanotech is life-altering and pervasive across all known substances. Some of the industries that can be researched include: nanobiology, nanochemistry, nanotechnology life sciences, and of course, nanotechnology (as it pertains to traditional technology). For the purposes of space and time, and in the future, space and time travel (just kidding), we will be sticking to the effects nanotech is having on traditional technology, and where it’s currently being successfully applied.

This article looks at: random access memory (RAM), active matrix displays and magnetic storage; all components of today’s most basic computing systems. Please realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the articles already published on the B-EYE-Network site have discussed the future of nanotechnology, along with successful experiments, which have already been concluded in 1999. This is a grounding mechanism to demonstrate the viability of the ideas shared by this author.

MRAM

This is the nanotech memory of the future. In fact, it’s already proven itself and is available to select purchasers. MRAM looks and feels just like our current memory storage devices today (for instance, a thumb drive), however the inner workings are much different. This particular application of nanotechnology is focused on electron spin, rather than DNA computing. DNA computing is a much more difficult proposition.

“MRAM (Magnetic Random Access Memory) is a revolutionary type of memory fabricated using nanotechnology, which uses electron spins to encode data. MRAM has been called the "holy grail" of memory because it has the potential to combine the speed of SRAM, the density of DRAM, and the non-volatility of Flash.”Http://www.nanoxchange.com/client/NewsFinancial.asp?ID=253.

“A recent paper by researchers from both the Center for nanoscale Systems (CNS) at Cornell University and NVE reported that spin momentum produces spin orientation using less current than present methods. The invention therefore has the potential to significantly reduce MRAM write currents with lithographic feature sizes of less than 100 nanometers. This could enable MRAM cell densities comparable to those of DRAM or Flash.” Http://www.nanoxchange.com/client/NewsFinancial.asp?ID=253.

MRAM replaces our current RAM chips, holding as much as 100 times what is available today. Instead of transistors being miniaturized as switches, the spins and orientations of electrons can be measured, altered, changed and used to record information. MRAM has other benefits along with its small size. Current technology (transistors) actually produce heat every time a bit is changed (they lose electrons in the process). This causes high-density CPU’s and RAM chips to require cooling during operation. 

MRAM doesn’t lose heat when the electrons spins are changed; there is no electron loss and thus no heat loss. Other circuitry that may control the nanotech might (at first) produce heat however, as the control mechanisms are reduced to nanotech, heat loss will become a thing of the past. Eventually our nanotech PCD’s (personal computing devices) will no longer require those noisy fans! Think about this, PMRAM (parallel magnetic random access memory): this is where the MRAM is going. It can and will perform all its operations in parallel, and sometimes in multiple parallel operations. Not only is the storage capacity phenomenal, the computing power is unbelievable.

Active Matrix Displays

The active matrix displays, otherwise known as flat-panels, LCD’s, high-definition TV’s and computer monitors make up a huge part of the computing market. After all, if we can’t see what we’re working on, how can we control it? Here’s a company with an interesting name that is using nanotech to produce “ink” on visual formats. The applied nanotech here can provide incredible clarity with low- to no-heat production and extremely thin appliances. If these materials are combined with nanotech casing materials, they can quickly become flexible, nearly unbreakable screens with nothing more than a possible battery (nicad/lithium) or get this: nanobattery.

E Ink is currently working with set makers and strategic partners to commercialize high-resolution display products, including reader devices with eBook or PDA functionality and other mobile communication devices.

 

E Ink supplies our proprietary ink sheets that serve as the front (viewing) plane (FPL) of the display. Our manufacturing partners will then laminate our electronic ink FPL to their active matrix backplane to form a display "cell," which in turn is populated with driver integrated circuits (IC's) and controllers to form a display module.Http://www.nanoxchange.com/client/Company_Product_Detail.asp?ID=108

Most nanotech devices these days also focus on providing their own internal power source. Since they don’t lose electrons through changing content (like today’s electronics), they can be powered by very small sources for a very long time. This particular backplane is made from proprietary nanotechnology, combined with standard non-nanotech electronics. 

The prospects are tremendous. The nanotech could enable ever smaller pixilation, a route from millions of colors to billions of colors, no need for a refresh rate. These and other features such as touch screen, built-in hand-writing recognition and even cold/heat and other atom detection devices or wave detection devices can be built directly into the display without additional hardware. It really gives us a new view on the world.

Magnetic Storage Arrays

At long last, we get to what we currently know as disk drives, CD’s, optical drives, worm drives and any sort of magnetic storage media. While CD’s are not magnetic in nature, they too will be replaced by a combination of MRAM and NanoMagnetics. Yes, CD’s and DVD’s will be a thing of the past very soon. They are being surpassed by Nanoelectronics.

NanoMagnetics grows tiny magnetic grains within hollow protein spheres called “apoferritin,” which are 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of human hair. The resulting Nanoparticles are limited in size by the inner cavity of the spheres, producing highly uniform material, which we call DataInk. Importantly, DataInk is produced using mild and inexpensive chemical techniques.

Using individual grains to represent bits of data, this protein-derived media could ultimately extend densities to between 5,000 and 10,000 Gbits/in2.Http://www.nanoxchange.com/client/Company_Product_Detail.asp?ID=1309.

Here’s another company with a different spin on Nano-ink (no pun intended). In this case, the DataInk they discuss is based off magnetically charged atomic particles compared to E Ink, which uses nanotech as ink on a display screen. One of the most interesting concepts here is just how much storage is proposed on just such a magnetic device. The answer is 10,000 Gigabits per inch squared. That’s a lot of information. The projected storage capacities exceed 10 times today’s largest hard drive (given the same space).

The real magic for these nano-based devices will be the protection mechanisms. The actual storage will require casings that keep stray waves and stray magnetism from affecting electrons. Error detection and correction will take on a whole new meaning, additional nanotech mechanisms will be necessary to keep the nanostorage environment safe from damage. For example, we know how easy it is to de-magnetize magnetic materials by banging the metal with a hammer, and to re-magnetize with electrical current. We wouldn’t want to hammer away on our atomic level storage devices with stray waves, it would destroy the very information we want to record.

Conclusion:

Nanotechnology has already permeated our typical technology sector, ranging from MRAM storage and disk storage to active matrix displays. However, don’t pin nanotech in just one corner. Nanotechnology (because of its nature, control over the atomic layer) spans all sectors and all industries around the world. There are many more examples of real-world nanotech that can be found on the Web. This article is just a brief look at some of the nanotech devices already in place and/or coming to a store near you, very soon. This article is meant to bring you up to date on the application of nanotechnology and to demonstrate that this series is not simply conjecture. There’s a lot brewing in this coffee pot, it’s hot, black and tastes wonderfully sweet.

Feel free to get in touch with me, I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and feedback on these issues—both critical and thoughtful perspectives. This is a research interest of mine.


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