Speeding Up Information With Nanotechnology
In addition to chips, nanotechnology holds potential in other areas of computing. Random-access memory (RAM) enables a computer, cell phone, or other device to access any piece of data in its storage system. Today, the dominant technology is dynamic RAM (DRAM). DRAM's main failing is that it requires a constant electrical current, therefore consuming a large amount of energy. A number of companies are investigating alternatives to DRAM, such as magnetic RAM (MRAM). MRAM uses properties of magnetic polarity, rather than a continuous electric current, to read data. It uses less energy and is faster than DRAM.
Nanotechnology may also hold the future of data storage. One of the most exciting products in development is IBM's Millipede device—named for its appearance—which records huge amount of nanoscale data onto a polymer plate. Not only does Millipede have an enormous capacity, it's also fast, energy-efficient, and inexpensive to fabricate.
Advances in display technology, from computer screens and cell phones to medical monitors, could impact telecommunications and the computing industry. The incorporation of nanotubes into a color screen can make it lighter in weight and more energy-efficient.
Behind the scenes, telecommunications and information technology could be revolutionized by new means of transmitting information. Today, long-distance phone calls and Internet data travel along fiber-optic networks, passing through slower electronic switches and routers along the way. An all-optical network that dispensed with such bottlenecks would drastically accelerate the speed of information. Nanotechnology has the potential to make that possible. Research has shown that buckyballs, for example, could be used in the creation of optical switches to replace the slower electronic versions.
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