While researchers at IBM’s Zurich Research Lab have devised a way to print particles as small as 60 nanometers in diameter using conventional lithography techniques, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have used self-assembly, a process by which chemical reactants crystallize at lower temperatures mediated by nanoscale metal catalysts, to spontaneously form nanowires that were 30-50 nanometers in diameter and 10 micrometers in length.
The University of Pennsylvania scientists used germanium antimony telluride, which is a phase-changing material that switches between amorphous and crystalline structures. These phase-changes can be used to store data. The scientists were able to demonstrate a memory device that showed extremely low power consumption for data encoding (0.7mW per bit) while writing, erasing and retrieving data 1,000 times faster than conventional Flash memory. Tests also indicated the device would not lose data even after approximately 100,000 years of use. This all has the potential to realize a terabit-level nonvolatile memory device.