Author Topic: 1 Byte of Info Stored on 96 Atoms  (Read 914 times)

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Offline Damen

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1 Byte of Info Stored on 96 Atoms
« on: January 14, 2012, 05:05:32 am »
So, it seems science has gone and done it again. They're now writing data on atoms. Welcome to the age of nanotechnology.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Researchers at I.B.M. have stored and retrieved digital 1s and 0s from an array of just 12 atoms, pushing the boundaries of the magnetic storage of information to the edge of what is possible.

The findings, being reported Thursday in the journal Science, could help lead to a new class of nanomaterials for a generation of memory chips and disk drives that will not only have greater capabilities than the current silicon-based computers but will consume significantly less power. And they may offer a new direction for research in quantum computing.

“Magnetic materials are extremely useful and strategically important to many major economies, but there aren’t that many of them,” said Shan X. Wang, director of the Center for Magnetic Nanotechnology at Stanford University. “To make a brand new material is very intriguing and scientifically very important.”

Until now, the most advanced magnetic storage systems have needed about one million atoms to store a digital 1 or 0. The new achievement is the product of a heated international race between elite physics laboratories to explore the properties of magnetic materials at a far smaller scale.

Last May, a group at the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Hamburg in Germany reported on the ability to perform computer logic operations on an atomic level.

The group at I.B.M.’s Almaden Research Center here, led by Andreas Heinrich, has now created the smallest possible unit of magnetic storage by painstakingly arranging two rows of six iron atoms on a surface of copper nitride.

Such closeness is possible because the cluster of atoms is antiferromagnetic — a rare quality in which each atom in the array has an opposed magnetic orientation. (In common ferromagnetic materials like iron, nickel and cobalt, the atoms are magnetically aligned.)

As part of its demonstration of the antiferromagnetic storage effect, the researchers created a computer byte, or character, out of an individually placed array of 96 atoms. They then used the array to encode the I.B.M. motto “Think” by repeatedly programming the memory block to store representations of its five letters.

Moreover, Dr. Heinrich said, smaller groups of atoms begin to exhibit quantum mechanical behavior — simultaneously existing in both “spin” states, in effect 1 and 0 at the same time.

In theory, such atoms could be assembled into Qbits — the basic unit of an experimental approach to computing that might one day exceed the capabilities of today’s most powerful supercomputers.

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Offline Shane for Wax

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Re: 1 Byte of Info Stored on 96 Atoms
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2012, 05:54:27 am »
Hmmm. 12 atoms to a bit.

"On the other hand, the experiment was carried out at 1 degree Kelvin (minus 272 Celsius) and the storage became unstable at 5 degrees Kelvin. The researchers believe it would take around 100 to 150 atoms for the technique to work at room temperature.

That’s still up to 10,000 times fewer atoms than existing technology. IBM’s Andreas Heinrich has noted that an incredibly conservative estimate of being able to use 100 times fewer atoms in practice would make a 100TB hard drive viable."

Interesting. Would love a 100TB hard drive. :P

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Offline Oriet

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Re: 1 Byte of Info Stored on 96 Atoms
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2012, 11:14:55 am »
Once again physicists do science magic and do what was previously thought impossible.

I do see this as being commercially available sooner than what some research has found for storing multiple bytes (not just bits) on a single atom with quantum holography.
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Offline ThunderWulf

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Re: 1 Byte of Info Stored on 96 Atoms
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2012, 11:27:38 am »
The stuff we discover we can do with atoms never ceases to amaze me.
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Offline Sigmaleph

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Re: 1 Byte of Info Stored on 96 Atoms
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2012, 09:28:12 pm »
Anyone know what the previous record for atoms per bit was?  According to this 20 atoms per bit was achieved almost 10 years ago.