We report on a new atomic force microscope (AFM)-based data storage concept called the “Millipede” that has a potentially ultrahigh density, terabit capacity, small form factor, and high data rate. Its potential for ultrahigh storage density has been demonstrated by a new thermomechanical local-probe technique to store and read back data in very thin polymer films. With this new technique, 30–40-nm-sized bit indentations of similar pitch size have been made by a single cantilever/tip in a thin (50-nm) polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) layer, resulting in a data storage density of 400–500 Gb/in.2 High data rates are achieved by parallel operation of large two-dimensional (2D) AFM arrays that have been batch-fabricated by silicon surface-micromachining techniques. The very large scale integration (VLSI) of micro/nanomechanical devices (cantilevers/tips) on a single chip leads to the largest and densest 2D array of 32 × 32 (1024) AFM cantilevers with integrated write/read storage functionality ever built. Time-multiplexed electronics control the write/read storage cycles for parallel operation of the Millipede array chip. Initial areal densities of 100–200 Gb/in.2 have been achieved with the 32 × 32 array chip, which has potential for further improvements. In addition to data storage in polymers or other media, and not excluding magnetics, we envision areas in nanoscale science and technology such as lithography, high-speed/large-scale imaging, molecular and atomic manipulation, and many others in which Millipede may open up new perspectives and opportunities.
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