Liquid crystals light way to better data storage

June 22, 2010

As cell phones and computers continue to shrink, many companies are seeking better ways to store hundreds of gigabytes of data in small, low-power devices.

A special type of , similar to those used in computer displays and televisions, offers a solution. Unlike CDs and DVDs, which store information only on their surface, lasers can encode data throughout a liquid crystal. Known as holographic storage, the technique makes it possible to pack much more information in a tiny space.

But attempts to use liquid crystals for have had limited success. In order to reliably record and rewrite data, researchers must figure out a way to uniformly control the orientation of liquid crystal molecules. Currently, most liquid crystal technologies rely on physical or chemical manipulation, such as rubbing in one direction, to align molecules in a preferred direction.

In an important advance, scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have created a stable, rewritable memory device that exploits a liquid crystal property called the "anchoring transition." The work is described in the latest issue of the Journal of Applied Physics.

Using either a or an electric field, the researchers can align rod-like liquid crystal molecules in a . Their tests show that the liquid crystal created by the team can store data, be erased and used again.

"This is the first rewritable memory device utilizing anchoring transition," said Hideo Takezoe, who led the research. And because the device is bi-stable -- the liquid crystals retain their orientation in one of two directions -- it needs no power to keep images, adds Takezoe.

Explore further: New type of liquid crystal identified; Holds promise of faster, lower priced liquid crystal displays

More information: The article, "Heat- and electric-field-driven bistable devices using dye-doped nematic liquid crystals" by Hideo Takezoe et al will appear in the Journal of Applied Physics. See:

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not rated yet Jun 22, 2010
nematic liquid crystals have provided great phototransistor and photoswitch solutions, seeing optical cores running on them would be a great feat considering the technology was discovered sometime in the 80's
not rated yet Jun 24, 2010
Neat, but I have been reading about how holographic memory will be "the next big thing" for almost 30 years. My bets are on memristor tech and carbon nanotubes.
not rated yet Jul 07, 2010
Are there any improvements in speed as well or just capacity? I would imagine speed wouldn't be all that great with these.

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