In two years mobile phones could have 250 times more memory than the hard disks in today’s desktop PCs, thanks to a new storage technology developed by Keele University scientists.

Professor Ted Williams’ team at Keele has produced a memory system which provides 10.8 terabytes (TB) of random access memory on an area the size of a credit card. A terabyte is 1,000GB. Just to show how much this is, the internet music service Napster is serving between 2-4TB of data at any one time, with around 40 million users.

The technology dwarfs the 40GB hard disc found on top-range modern PCs and makes the latest advances in conventional memory look almost insignificant: Samsung has just announced it is to produce 4GB memory chips using 0.10um designs. Using well-known techniques this is a serious advancement, but compared to the Keele work it's peanuts.

The Keele memory system – each square centimetre of the device contains a closed circuit for recording data and a fibre-optic reader – contains no moving parts, and can be made for less than $50, Prof. Williams says.

Keele scientists have also made giant steps forward in text compression, optical storage and data transfer.

Using their compression software, text can be squeezed into an eighth of the memory it currently requires; improved coatings can boost optical disc capacity by 30 times; and new ways of recording and reading data can quadruple the capacity of magneto-optical discs.

Patents for the technologies are being processed, and the University has formed a company, Keele High Density, to commercialise the inventions and find partners to make them.

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