IBM Successfully Stores a Bit With Only 12 Iron Atoms

Written by John Ponio    Thursday, 12 January 2012 18:17

Tunneling Microscope Image of 12 Iron Atoms

In your hard drive that's in your computer right now, eat bit of data stored requires millions of atoms. This requires data densities to be rather low, meaning there's a lot of "wasted" space on a hard drive. Researchers have been trying and trying to get densities higher, and some work a little bit, but it still takes a lot of atoms to store data. Well, IBM just smashed the previous records by recording a bit of data with only 12 atoms of iron, kind of. Using the tip of a tunneling microscope to arrange the atoms, they started with 1 atom and kept adding more up to where they could make it stable, which was 12. The only problem is that in order to get it stable at 12 atoms, they had to decrease the temperature to 1 Kelvin, which is just about the coldest temperature possible (it's theorized that 0 Kelvin is the coldest, but it's impossible to reach). The researchers speculate that in order for the data to be stable at room temperature it would require about 150 atoms. So what's this mean? Basically in an estimated five to ten years this technology will hit the main stream, giving storage densities an exponential boost and making your hard drive able to store an amazing amount of data. You can read about how the storage with such a tiny number of atoms is done here