IBM is working on a new form of memory that promises future iPods could hold half a million songs the company has confirmed.

In two papers published in the April 11 issue of Science, IBM Fellow Stuart Parkin and colleagues at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose describe the fundamentals of a technology dubbed "racetrack" memory

The memory is being described as faster and more reliable than a hard drive or flash memory. It combines elements of both memory types in its conception, but is capable of storing far larger quantities of data and reading that information an astonishing 100,000 times faster than flash memory is able to achieve. The solution uses spintronics, a technology that exploits the spin and charge properties of electrons to deliver large capacity memory on very small devices.

There’s other advantages: like flash, there’s no moving parts, but unlike flash it never wears out (flash drives can handle 10,000 read/write cycles before failing). Even better, the new storage technology is cheap to manufacture.

"It has been an exciting adventure to have been involved with research into metal spintronics since its inception almost 20 years ago with our work on spin-valve structures," said Dr. Parkin. "The combination of extraordinarily interesting physics and spintronic materials engineering, one atomic layer at a time, continues to be highly challenging and very rewarding. The promise of racetrack memory – for example, the ability to carry massive amounts of information in your pocket – could unleash creativity leading to devices and applications that nobody has imagined yet."

There’s no chance of the new technology seeing immediate deployment, though the company hopes to provide storage solutions based on it in six to eight years. And the company hasn’t yet built a functioning racetrack memory unit – but it’s boffins are confident they have the theory pretty much nailed.

So in 2014, will Apple introduce the world to the iPod nano nano? Can we look forward to an even smaller, lighter MacBook Air?

 

About the Author