Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have created a tiny device that improves on existing forms of memory storage, opening the way to fast MP3 players, smartphones and cameras that use much less energy than current models.
Usually, an electronic device converts data into signals that are stored as binary code. This latest method uses a tiny mechanical arm to translate the data into electrical signals. This allows for much faster operation and uses much less energy compared to conventional memory storage.
The device records data by measuring the current passing through a carbon nanotube, and the binary value of the data is determined by an electrode that controls the flow of current.
The researchers say it could offer gadget designers a way to create faster devices with reduced power consumption. Previous attempts to use carbon nanotube transistors for memory storage hit a stumbling block because they had low operational speed and didn't retain the data for very long.
By using a mechanical arm to charge the electrode - which operates much faster than conventional memory devices - scientists have been able to overcome the problems.
The research, carried out in collaboration with Konkuk University and Seoul National University, Korea, was published in Nature Communications.
Professor Eleanor Campbell of the University of Edinburgh's School of Chemistry, who took part in the study, said in a statement: This is a novel approach to designing memory storage devices. Using a mechanical method combined with the benefits of nanotechnology enables a system with superior speed and energy efficiency compared with existing devices.