Organic ternary data storage device developed

Organic ternary data storage device developed
Image credit: Journal of the American Chemical Society
( -- The memory capacity of electronics devices could be increased in future thanks to an organic data storage system using ternary rather than binary data storage. The current prototype is designed for permanent data storage, and can be written once but read multiple times, but the Chinese researchers hope to develop re-writable data storage based on the technology.

Binary systems record data as a switchable series of zeros and ones, whereas ternary systems record data as zeros, ones or twos, which are also electrically switchable states. The extra value theoretically means much more data could be stored in the same amount of storage space. Ternary systems already exist, but are mostly experimental.

A new system, developed by Hongwei Gu and Jianmei Lu and colleagues at Soochow University, Suzhou in eastern China, is a ternary system using a new synthesized organic azo compound sandwiched between aluminum and (ITO) electrodes. Each electrode unit acts as a data storage unit, which acts in a similar way to the magnetized patches in a hard disk that store data. When a voltage is applied to the aluminum electrode, the ease of electron flow (and density of molecular stacking) in the azo compound is changed to a low, medium or high conductivity state that corresponds to zero, one, or two respectively.

Organic ternary data storage device developed
SEM image of the device (the thickness of the azo1 film is about 120 nm.) Image credit: Journal of the American Chemical Society

A group of scientists, led by Ritesh Agarwal at the University of Pennsylvania, have previously used inorganic compounds to develop a reliable ternary data storage that is erasable, but Lu and Gu’s prototype is the first reliable ternary system using an organic compound in a permanent data storage device.

High-density data storage (HDDS) systems are needed to store the ever increasing amounts of information. The prototype developed at Soochow University could lead to a massive increase in the potential memory density in future .

The paper is published in the .

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More information: A Small-Molecule-Based Ternary Data-Storage Device, J. Am. Chem. Soc., Article ASAP, DOI:10.1021/ja910243f

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Citation: Organic ternary data storage device developed (2010, April 14) retrieved 22 May 2019 from
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Apr 14, 2010
I have wondered if it would make sense someday to switch from binary to base 10 when electronics can economically and efficiently handle it. This looks like a step in that direction.

Some of the first computers were in fact base 10, it is not a technical or economical challenge. This is totally different.

Apr 14, 2010
I think with this and memristors we've got Moore's law pretty much beat.

Apr 14, 2010
it is a technical challenge -- or an electrical engineering challenge... the issue is base two is easy to use if a voltage is detected the bit is on if a voltage is not detected it is off -- this work with clock cycles very easily as well tick - on -- tock off -- changing bases in electronics is difficult because it is difficult to say oh this voltage is near 4 but it could be close to 5 as well this is an engineering issue that is simplified with base two

Apr 14, 2010
Thats great for stoage but it would still have to be converted back to binary for the CPU to work with the data.

XOR / bit shifting etc does not work with ternary the way things are today. Much more would have to change

Apr 14, 2010

Russia did ternary for quite a while, and dropped it.

Binary systems were cheaper to manufacture and are easy to configure as emulating ternary systems for various research interests (usually database related tasks with "unknown" third value)

In the event true binary engineered devices start hitting a wall, various techniques for analog to digital mechanisms (like photonics and spintronics) are already pointing to the direction of binary "divisible bits" ( powers of two like 4, 8, 16, etc...) such that interfacing with existing binary is a reasonable task.

Trying for 3 bits is... well... odd.


Apr 14, 2010
truth is that most current flash drives are base 4 which means that they store 2 bits per cell. There are also base 8 devices just now coming to market that have 3 bits per cell. I wonder why a base 3 device would have any benefit?

Apr 15, 2010
I was under the impression the russians beat this one to death already? Not this particular method, but ternary in general.

Apr 18, 2010
NAND=Flash MLC is now shipping in large quantities beating ternary by one digit storage and doesn't require any system change (imagine that?).

Grant money must be getting a bit low so it's time to advertise how they were able to invent an odd sided wheel as a replacement for the existing even sided one...

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