Dr. Jagdish Narayan

November 29, 2011

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If you think your MP3 player holds a lot of music and videos now, just wait. Engineers have created a new material that would allow a fingernail-size computer chip to store the equivalent of 20 high-definition DVDs or 250 million pages of text, far exceeding the storage capacities of today’s computer memory systems.

Dr. Jagdish Narayan

Led by Dr. Jagdish “Jay” Narayan, director of the National Science Foundation Center for Advanced Materials and Smart Structures at NC State, the engineers made their breakthrough using the process of selective doping, in which an impurity is added to a material, changing its properties. The process also shows promise for boosting vehicle fuel economy and reducing the heat produced by semiconductors.

“Instead of making a chip that stores 20 gigabytes, you have one that can handle one terabyte, or 50 times more data,” Narayan says.

Information storage is not the only area where advances could be made. By introducing metallic properties into ceramics, Narayan says engineers could develop a new generation of ceramic engines able to withstand twice the temperatures of normal engines and achieve fuel economy of 80 miles per gallon. And since the thermal conductivity of the material would be improved, the technique could also have applications in harnessing alternative energy sources like solar energy.