Scientists from IBM Research have demonstrated the ability to store information in as few as 12 magnetic atoms. This is significantly less than today's disk drives, which use about one million atoms to store a single bit of information.
While silicon transistor technology has become cheaper, denser and more
efficient, fundamental physical limitations suggest this path of conventional
scaling is unsustainable. Alternative approaches are needed to continue the
rapid pace of computing innovation. By taking a novel approach and beginning at
the smallest unit of data storage, the atom, scientists demonstrated magnetic
storage that is at least 100 times denser than today’s hard disk drives and
solid state memory chips. Future applications of nanostructures built one atom
at a time, and that apply an unconventional form of magnetism called
antiferromagnetism, could allow people and businesses to store 100 times more
information in the same space.
“The chip industry will continue its pursuit of incremental scaling in
semiconductor technology but, as components continue to shrink, the march
continues to the inevitable end point: the atom. We’re taking the opposite
approach and starting with the smallest unit -- single atoms -- to build
computing devices one atom at a time.” said Andreas Heinrich, the lead
investigator into atomic storage at IBM Research – Almaden, in California.
Scanning tunneling microscope image shows a group of 12 iron atoms forming magnetic memory bit. Source: IBM
The scientists at IBM Research used a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to
atomically engineer a grouping of twelve antiferromagnetically coupled atoms
that stored a bit of data for hours at low temperatures. Taking advantage of
their inherent alternating magnetic spin directions, they demonstrated the
ability to pack adjacent magnetic bits much closer together than was previously
possible. This greatly increased the magnetic storage density without disrupting
the state of neighboring bits.
This article was first posted by EE Times Europe, a sister publication to EE Times.
Related links and articles:
More information and a video at www.ibm.com/atomicscalememory
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