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Paramagnetic nanodot smartstuff offers 1TB micro-SD cards

And super-hot, super-efficient pottery car engines

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Boffins in America say they have developed a new material which will mean terabyte-capacity micro format data cards. Intriguingly, the same wonder-stuff could also be employed in building super-high-temperature, super-efficient ceramic car engines.

Smart-structures wiz Dr Jagdish Narayan, who is fortunate enough to be "John C C Fan Family Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering" at North Carolina State, leads the engineers working on the new memory-stuff.

Narayan and his team, as is normal in semiconductor research, achieved their results using doping - the crafty adding of selected impurities to a material so as to give it different properties. In this case, they added nickel impurities to ceramic magnesium oxide.

The resulting perfectly-paramagnetic ceramic matrix held nickel "nanodots" - each potentially containing a single data bit - sized at just 10 square nanometres, 90 per cent smaller than today's on-chip components.

"Instead of making a chip that stores 20 gigabytes, you have one that can handle one terabyte, or 50 times more data," Narayan says.

People are getting used to having a terabyte of storage in their home computers - at least, mostly in their combined home computers today and in single machines tomorrow. But we aren't yet at the stage of thumb drives and smartphone micro-cards holding a terabyte.

That said, there are many contenders out there to be the future of storage. Narayan & Co's paramagnetic nanodot memory-china may never see adoption in that field, but the prof reckons it has other uses.

For instance, materials boffins have long sought to combine the flexibility and workability of metals with the heat resistance and lightness of ceramics. Such materials would allow the manufacture of engines able to withstand much higher internal temperatures without melting themselves; this in turn would mean better fuel efficiency or more power, or a combination of both. Narayan believes that metallo-ceramics such as his could mean car engines able to do 80+ miles per gallon.

If that's not enough, he also thinks his new super-stuff could be useful in "spintronics", the art of wielding electrons without generating any pesky heat - potentially a useful art indeed as any IT-literate reader will be aware.

There's some more from NCSU here, including a reference for the scholarly paper. ®

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