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Nanotechnology allows all data to be deleted

Removing information from an electronic device is not easy. While many of us have used devices which have crashed and the data appears irretrievable, often it remains hidden and it could be recovered by a computer expert or someone for more nefarious purposes.

Rather than going to ‘Mission Impossible’ lengths by totally destroying a computer or other device, researchers have developed an electron beam technique to allow for the complete destruction of electronic data.

Electron beam processing (commonly referred to as e-beam) is a method which uses high energy electrons to treat an object. It is a method of irradiation and is sometimes described as electron irradiation which ionises the material it strikes by stripping electrons from the atoms of the exposed material.

Researchers based at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed an electron-beam writing technique that induces the deposition of carbon on a graphene surface. The phrase that has been developed to describe this new method is “focused electron beam induced deposition.” The method is a type of direct-write additive lithographic technique.

With the method, by altering the energy levels, exposure time, and location of the e-beam the rate of carbon deposition changes, leading to the re-write and direct-write events occurring. The electron beam is typically created using a specified high-energy electron beam accelerator.

With the new method, electron-beam technique allows for nanoscale engineering of future graphene-based devices for information. This means that not only can data be re-written, the original functionality of the device can be changed. Here energy storage, sensors and nanoelectronics could each be re-configured.

The subject of data security and data theft remains one of concern (and trends high on social media); the new technology could help to address such concerns for major companies should they wish to dispose of computerized equipment.

The research has been published in the journal Nanoscale. The research paper is titled “Dynamic modulation of electronic properties of graphene by localized carbon doping using focused electron beam induced deposition.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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