Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have developed nanowires that can store computer data for 100,000 years and retrieve the data 1,000 times faster than existing portable memory devices such as Flash and micro-drives. The self-assembling nanowire is made of germanium antimony telluride, a phase-changing material that switches between amorphous and crystalline structures, the key to read/write computer memory.

To fabricate the devices, researchers used self-assembly, a process by which chemical reactants crystallize at lower temperatures mediated by nanoscale metal catalysts to spontaneously form nanowires, and then they fabricated memory devices on silicon substrates. Tests indicated the data writing, erasing, and retrieval to be 1,000 times faster than conventional Flash memory, and that the device would not lose data even after approximately 100,000 years of use.

"Imagine being able to store hundreds of high-resolution movies in a small drive, downloading them, and playing them without wasting time on data buffering, or imagine booting your laptop computer in a few seconds, as you wouldn't need to transfer the operating system to active memory," said Ritesh Agarwal, assistant professor and team member.

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