The researchers from the Delft University of Technology in Netherlands created the first atomic hard drive that could store 500 TB in just one square inch of material. Until now, the highest capacity hard drive was of only 1 TB.
Even if the current storage devices become larger and larger, the need for more space and for new methods to keep data safe is never ceasing to end.
The scientists based their discovery on scanning tunneling microscope, which had been used to move individual atoms.
The stat was in 1990 when a physicist managed to create words with xenon atoms, and the first word he was chosen was “IBM”. Since then, the researchers tried to use atoms to store information.
The present study managed to avoid the issues encountered so far by scientists and to use a model that focuses on atomic vacancies, and not on their location.
Researchers so far discovered that atoms are easy to move, but they are not very stable and cannot be kept fixed into one single place.
As opposed to that, the Delft scientists used chlorine atoms which, being deposited on a copper substrate would develop a regular grid. Given that it was more stable than the previous experimental settings, the researchers used the network to store information just like into a puzzle, by using the pattern of empty spaces. The units of information are saved in the model of vacancies.
The new study reports that the empty space method has 99% reliability.
For example, in just a few nanometers the researchers stored one kilobyte of information. The microscopic surface contains 144 blocks, and each of them can encode eight binary bits of data.
So far, the scientists managed to create very small storages by using this atomic method. The challenges lie in getting a final capacity that would be able to store more data than the devices that are available so far.
Another issue to overcome is that the storage medium needs to be brought to a lower temperature by using liquid nitrogen, going down to -320 F.
The researchers still need to figure out how to read data faster from the vacancies pattern, as 1 Kb of information can be read in no less than 10 minutes, which is incredibly slow. Even if the scanning tunneling microscope technology will be able to upgrade the quantity to 1Mbps, the quantity, and the reading speed is still much slow if it were to be used at this moment.
Even with all these technical challenges, the team of researchers believes that in time, the atomic hard drive will revolutionize the way data is stored.
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