Sponsors: IBM, ONR
Collaborators: IBM, Tom Kenny Group, Mechanical Engineering, Stanford

High density data storage is one of the key challenges for next-generation computation. Data storage techniques that involve material displacement of motion are not subjected to the same fundamental limits as magnetic storage, and therefore offer truly exceptional possibilities for data density.

Thermomechanical data storage was pioneered by IBM researchers in the late 1990’s and was studied here at Stanford due to the variety of associated fundamental transport problems. This technique uses Joule heating in a microfabricated cantilever and mechanical force to generate divots in a polymer film, with characteristic dimension approaching 20 nm. The presence of data bits are read using the displacement of the cantilever towards the substrate when it returns to the same location. Areas of interest at Stanford included the design and optimization of cantilevers for optimal time constant and other figures of merit, the study of the viscoelastic polymer motion during bit formation, and the thermal transport between the cantilevers and substrate occurring during the read back process.