In today’s world, people expect their gadgets to have more slender figures and more quality functionalities as well. The thinner a smartphone with impressive performances is, the higher the demand is. In an effort to keep up with the latest trends and satisfy the needs of consumers, IBM made the impossible. Hard disk drivers feel the heaviest pressure to become as seamless as possible. This is why the multinational tech behemoth tried and succeeded to store one bit on one single atom.
The breakthrough was recently published in the journal Nature. It all came from the fact that the latest technology needs around 100,000 atoms to store just one bit of digital data. By making 99,000 atoms redundant, IBM has just opened the path to the future of hard disk industry. At this moment, the experiment is highly unpractical without further lengthy studies and research. Nonetheless, this changed the paradigms forever. Before this event, people believed the atomic data storage is a part of the science fiction world only.
For this experiment, IBM specialists appealed to a Holmium atom which has several unpaired electrons. This unit of matter was then placed on a layer of magnesium dioxide. This way, the atom became magnetic. At this point, the experts have also managed to create the smallest magnet in the world. Furthermore, researchers applied the atom around 150 millivolts. This process was possible thanks to another IBM invention called the scanning tunneling microscope. This procedure forced the atom to change its magnetic spin state.
The scientists proved in an indirect way the two states of the magnet. They placed an iron atom near their experiment. Thus, the iron started to act differently whenever the Holmium atom changed its states. This concluded that the atom has a stored magnetic capacity. As a consequence, it can store any amount to a 0 or 1. Researchers managed to get the binary combinations as well by creating two such atoms.
This experiment proves that a single atom is capable of magnetic memory. Nonetheless, this virgin territory needs more research for the fruits of this project to end up in a laptop someday. One of the lead authors of the study, Chris Lutz, stated that they would also look into other formats such as clusters of atoms or small molecules.
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