The Gigabyte Shirt

Imagine our clothing, any type of clothing from under to outer-wear is acting as digital data storage memory. Sound too far fetched? Actually NASA scientists found a way to do just that – transforming fabrics into huge storage arrays potentially transforming a simple shirt into a Giga or even Terra Byte storage medium.

The underlying technology is rather simple, based on the early day computer memory, called core memory technology used in the ’50s and ’60s as state-of-the-art computer storage memory.

Fast forward to 2011 two NASA nano-technologists from the Ames Research Center in California came up with a mouthed to weave computer memory into garments.

Here is my condensed, simplified version of the incredible work ‘Copper oxide resistive switching memory for e-textile‘ from scientist Jin-Woo Han and M. Meyyappan.

A mesh of bare copper wires are woven whereby the bottom wires are coated with copper oxide. At each intersection of the woven copper grid a Platinum piece is placed. The copper oxide coating is acting as resistive switching thus storing data on each node/intersection.

The read and write process of this woven data storage medium is done just like by conventional RAM: high voltage (in this case 3V is used to write data and low voltage of 0.5V to read data bits.

First experimental woven data arrays have been able to store data for about 115 days – does not sound incredibly long but the memory can be refreshed before the data vanish. The refresh shouldn’t take that long as the read/write access time is just 60 microseconds.

Imagine how many Giga and Tera Bytes we could have in a woven structure considering the thousands and thousands of intersection a piece of fabric is made up.

Cleaning garments in future will have two dimensions, one to get the dirt off and another cleaning process to clear up and refresh the data deep inside the fabric.

As it applies for most high-tech research – sounds reasonable simple to fabricate but there are always some potential roadblock along the way. In the memory fabric case consideration on impact of heat, cold, UV radiation, wear and tear of the fabric and it’s impact on the data storage reliability are some of the most obvious and essential questions that have been worked out before the first yardage of memory fabric runs off the textile mills.

I will keep my eyes wide open to look out for Can’t wait to be able to buy the first yards of the memory fabric. I don’t mind sewing a shirt myself.

The research paper ‘Copper oxide resistive switching memory for e-textile‘ for in-depth information can be viewed at AIP Advances.


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