A team of scientists has come up with a solution that can help your computer run faster. All you have to do is sing to your data.
The Universities of Sheffield and Leeds research has shown that certain types of sound waves can move data quickly, using minimal power.
The world’s 2.7 zettabytes (2.7 followed by 21 zeros) of data are mostly held on hard disk drives: magnetic disks that work like miniaturised record players, with the data read by sensors that scan over the disk’s surface as it spins. But because this involves moving parts, there are limits on how fast it can operate.
Researchers Tom Hayward and John Cunningham found that the direction of data flow depends on the pitch of the sound generated – in effect they “sang” to the data to move it.
The sound used is in the form of surface acoustic waves – the same as the most destructive wave that can emanate from an earthquake. Although already harnessed for use in electronics and other areas of engineering, this is the first time surface acoustic waves have been applied to a data storage system.
Hayward said that the key advantage of surface acoustic waves in this application is their ability to travel up to several centimetres without decaying, which at the nano-scale is a huge distance. “Because of this, we think a single sound wave could be used to “sing” to large numbers of nanowires simultaneously, enabling us to move a lot of data using very little power. We’re now aiming to create prototype devices in which this concept can be fully tested.”
The study is published in Applied Physics Letters.