IBM Stores Data In A Single Atom

Posted: Mar 9 2017, 5:23am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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IBM Stores Data in a Single Atom
A view from IBM Research's Nobel prize-winning microscope of a single atom of Holmium, an element used as a magnet to store one bit of data. Photo Credit: IBM Research - Almaden (San Jose, Calif.)
  • IBM Creates World’s Smallest Magnet Using Single Atom to Store Data

It looks like IBM has stuffed a large amount of data into an atom’s storage space. Thus a ton of information has been stored on the world’s smallest hard drive. Scientists use IBM-invented, Nobel prize-winning microscope to demonstrate technology that could in the future store all songs on iTunes library on the area of a credit card

IBM has announced that it has managed to create the world’s smallest magnet which fits into the space of a single atom. A bit of data has been stored on it. At present, hard disk drives employ 100,000 atoms in order to store a single bit.

This capacity of storing one bit on one atom means that novel outlets have been found. Now, tinier and denser storage gadgets could be utilized in the future.

There is a possibility that the entire iTunes library (which comprises 35 million songs) can be stored on a device no bigger than a credit card. These sort of futuristic innovations have three and a half decades of nanotechnology behind them.

Among the breakthroughs at IBM is a scanning tunneling microscope whose inventor bagged the Nobel Prize. About seven days ago, IBM also made the announcement regarding its plans to construct the first quantum computers for commercial and scientific purposes.

The microscopes of the future will be demonstrating quantum information processing via individual magnetic atoms. Hard disk drives, tapes and magnetic memory devices have magnetic bits behind them.

The researchers wanted to see what exactly happened when technology was taken to the lowest rung of the scale ladder – that is to the atomic level. The atom is where the journey has led the scientists to.

“Magnetic bits lie at the heart of hard-disk drives, tape and next-generation magnetic memory,” said Christopher Lutz, lead nanoscience researcher at IBM Research – Almaden in San Jose, California.

“We conducted this research to understand what happens when you shrink technology down to the most fundamental extreme -- the atomic scale.”

By copying a bit onto an atom via electric current, it is hoped that information could be packed into smaller and smaller dimensions. Two magnetic atoms could be read and written on an individual basis even when they were separated by a distance of one nanometer.

This is a distance which is equal to a millionth of the width of a pin head. The level of density we achieve here is a thousand times denser than the usual scales to which the scientists are used to.

The future possibilities are virtually limitless. Computers, data hubs and personal gizmos can be made so small that they almost seem to disappear on the material scale of magnitude.

IBM’s scanning tunneling microscope (STM) took the 1986 Nobel Prize for Physics. This special microscope had many applications and one of them was building and measuring single-atom bits via holmium.

This microscope worked in an extreme vacuum condition. IBM sure has got the bull by the horns. That is as far as scientific research into the nitty gritty stuff that is nanotechnology is concerned.

This study was published in the journal Nature.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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