IBM creates technique for storing data on a single atom
Still far from applying to household products, the technique opens the way for further research and answers a number of questions about the physical limits for storing and reading data.
Current hard drives, like what you have on your computer, need an average of 100,000 atoms to hold a bit (which is the smallest unit of information). According to IBM researchers, lab tests allow you to calculate that a disk using the new technique would have a density of 600 terabits per square inch of surface: trillions of bits in a tiny area.
The engraving on atoms created by IBM uses a magnetic process, similar to what is used for recording information on hard drives. However, the conditions for the achievement require an extremely controlled laboratory environment, with the right to vacuum and use of liquid helium for temperature control.
IBM’s research may lead to much more compact and economical data storage technologies, as the physical dimensions of units benefiting from the technique would be much smaller: computers, notebooks, cell phones and even data centers could take advantage of high density in Devices.
While these conditions required today to record and read data directly from a single atom leave the dream of storing petabytes of data in more distant storage media, IBM trusts that research-related discoveries could be applied to commercially focused products. To date, no one has figured out how reliable data can be retained in atoms, and that done by IBM not only addresses this issue but also opens the way to new research and techniques for creating new, very high-density data storage technologies.