Forget flash; Nantero says carbon nanotubes are the future of storage


Just as the traditional enterprise is starting to embrace the potential of flash, a startup called Nantero Inc. is breaking into the scene with an entirely new breed of storage that is described as hundreds of times faster. The launch is the culmination of many millions in investment and no less than 14 years of research.

NRAM, as the semiconductor is referred to, consists of carbon nanotubes – cylinders just a few atoms across  – arranged in tightly-packed formation that is a much denser than the conventional silicon making up flash drives. That mean Nantero’s technology not only offers exponentially better performance but can hold more data as well.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the unique structural characteristics of carbon nanotubes, which can be tougher than the ceramics used to shield armored vehicles, also makes NRAM much more durable. As a result, the startup is the only storage maker that can boast of its technology being capable of surviving a trip to outer space, even if that slightly exceeds the requirements of most enterprises.

After spending the last decade and a half perfecting the memory, Nantero is now shifting its focus to mass-production with the help of another $31.5 million in funding from Charles River Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and other existing investors announced alongside the launch. The money will go towards fueling its efforts to court manufacturers, which could start shipping their products with NRAM in as a little as a few years.

The implementations will arrive in the form of standard memory modules that customers should be able to plug into their existing systems in place of conventional  DDR3 and DDR4 RAM without any modification. Natero expects the economies of scale achieved from demand for NRAM will eventually bring the price per gigabyte below that of both, as well as flash.

That’s good news for consumers, but even more so for the enterprise. With Wikibon pegging the annual return on solid-state memory at well over 500 percent, Nantero’s technology holds the potential of reshaping the data center as we know it.

Image by Grafixar via Morguefile