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Nanocamera May Change Data Storage

Data needs grow day by day. The size of our data is only going to keep expanding. Video content, for example, is available in much higher quality now than it was ten years ago. The resolution is higher, the pixel density is greater, and that creates a file that is much larger. Take DVD and Blu-ray as an example; the latter offers much higher picture quality due to the fact that the disc can store more data compared to the regular DVD. But even now research is being carried out as to how to pack more data on to storage devices like discs.

One latest piece of research comes from the University of Illinois. They have shown that using an array of novel gold, pillar bowtie nanoantennas (pBNAs) can record light across distances that are far smaller than the wavelength of light, much like traditional photographic film. However, unlike standard film, the material can record miniscule details. Combining an optical microscope (acting as the camera lens) and the material the researchers were able to take photos.

“Unlike conventional photographic film, the effect (writing and curing) is seen in real time. We have demonstrated that this multifunctional plasmonic film can be used to create optofluidic channels without walls,” said Kimani Toussaint, the leader of the research and the associate professor of mechanical science and engineering. “Because simple diode lasers and low-input power densities are sufficient to record near-field optical information in the pBNAs, this increases the potential for optical data storage applications using off-the-shelf, low-cost, read-write laser systems.”

The research was published in the academic journal Nano Letters under the title of ‘Multifunctional Plasmonic Film for Recording Near-Field Optical Intensity’. One of the authors of the paper was Brian Roxworthy, who explained that the manipulation of the particles is their proof-of-principle application. He further detailed that “the trajectory of trapped particles in solution is controlled by the pattern written into the pBNAs. This is equivalent to creating channels on the surface for particle guiding except that these channels do not have physical walls (in contrast to those optofluidics systems where physical channels are fabricated in materials such as PDMS).”

In layman’s terms, all of this means that the new camera can record more data than is standard onto discs, like DVDs and Blu-rays, at a low cost. With their current design, the researchers think that a standard disc could hold around 28.6GB of data. However, by adjusting array spacing on the camera and creating a smaller antenna, the capacity could grow to 75GB – more than a twofold increase.

The team demonstrated their research by creating patterns on the pBNAs using holographic transfer or steeling mirrors via a laser writing method. The group believe that this is only the beginning of the use of plasmonic film and that data storage on a small scale is just a single application. They are currently exploring the further uses for their research. For example, other applications could include lab on chip nanotweezers or sensing equipment.

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