IBM has developed 12 atoms large storage device; World’s smallest magnetic memory

Green bumps represent magnetic atom
12 atoms close together. Green bumps represent magnetic atom.

IBM has developed a new atomic level storage device i.e. made up of 12 iron atoms. The device can retrieve digital 1s and 0s from an array of just 12 atoms.

This research has been done by U.S. and German researchers at IBM and the German Center for Free-Electron Laser Science, and published online in the January 13 issue of the journal Science.Traditionally, the hard drives, in market, use millions of atoms to store data but researchers have reduced the number of atoms from one million to 12, and developed a storage device at atomic level after five years of work. These antiferromagnetically coupled 12 atoms are able to hold a bit of information for hours at low temperature. “Bit” is a basic unit of information.

Researchers have used scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to assemble atoms onto a surface and made a magnetic storage unit that is 100 times denser than hard disk drives and solid state memory chips.

This research could help in the development of tiny hard drives, which could store 200-300 times more information than today’s hard drives.

Magnetic bytes in 5 different states to represent the word "Think"

“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.” Andreas Heinrich, the lead investigator into atomic storage at IBM Research – Almaden, in California, said in a statement.

Future applications would apply untraditional form of magnetism, i.e. one atom at a time, referred to as anti-ferromagnetism, as this technology has pushed the magnetic storage capacity to one of the lowest possible level.

Previously, IBM reported that it has received the maximum number of patents in U.S. with more than 6000 patents in 2011.

IBM patents

IBM vs other competitors


Sebastian Loth, Susanne Baumann, Christopher P. Lutz, D. M. Eigler, Andreas J. Heinrich, (2011). Bistability in Atomic-Scale Antiferromagnets. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1214131

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