IBM research proves how data can be stored in a single atom

IBM Data storage atom

In an ever lasting need of computing and storage capabilities in the modern era, IBM has come up a new technology to store the data in a single atom. Normal hard drive requires about 100,000 of atoms to store a single bit(1 or 0) of data. But IBM has done it by using a single atom.

A research paper published by IBM shows how atomic storage can be possible in reality. According to it, a single Holmium atom is set on a bed of magnesium oxide. It has two stable magnetic states with different spins. Then a 150mV with 10microamps of current is applied to the atom to change the spin state of the atom. In order to be absolutely sure the atom was changing its magnetic state and this wasn’t just some interference, the researchers set an iron atom down nearby. This atom is affected by its magnetic neighborhood, and acted differently when probed while the Holmium atom was in its different states. This proves that the experiment truly creates a lasting, stored magnetic state in a single atom that can be detected indirectly.

Thus a single atom is used to store 0 or 1. The research can be summarized as:

To demonstrate independent reading and writing, we built an atomic-scale structure with two Ho bits, to which we write the four possible states and which we read out both magnetoresistively and remotely by electron spin resonance. The high magnetic stability combined with electrical reading and writing shows that single-atom magnetic memory is indeed possible.

To make it practical, IBM would need to make atomic-scale storage economically manufacturable, fast at reading and writing data and stable enough to store data for long periods of time. IBM’s atom stored data for the hours-long duration of the experiment, but real-world storage ideally would last years.

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