Scientists at the University of Edinburgh say they have created fast, low-energy memory for MP3s, smartphones and cameras.
While conventional methods use electronic devices to convert data into signals that can be stored as binary code, the new device uses a tiny mechanical arm to translate the data into electrical signals. This allows for much faster operation and uses much less energy than conventional memory storage tools, says the team.
"This is a novel approach to designing memory storage devices," says professor Eleanor Campbell of the University of Edinburgh's School of Chemistry.
"Using a mechanical method combined with the benefits of nanotechnology enables a system with superior speed and energy efficiency compared with existing devices."
The device records data by measuring the current passing through a carbon nanotube, with the binary value of the data determined by an electrode that controls the flow of current.
Previous attempts to use carbon nanotube transistors for memory storage suffered from low operational speeds and short memory retention times.
But by using a mechanical arm to charge the electrode – which operates much faster than conventional memory devices – scientists have been able to overcome these problems.
The team says the new technique could offer gadget designers a way to create faster devices with reduced power consumption.