IBM has announced that it has managed to create the world's smallest magnet which fits into the space of a single atom.
A Nobel-prize victor invention by IBM, the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), was used by the scientists of this technology company.
IBM Research says that modern hard drives utilize roughly 100,000 atoms to store a single bit, so shrinking things down to the size of just one atom is obviously a massive achievement. "We're excited about the potential for dramatically different storage that's more compact and robust than anything we've previously seen", said Dr Andreas Heinrich, scientist for the Institute of Basic Science (IBS) in Korea and former IBM Research scientist, explaining that although the current prototype only consists of two atoms writing two bits of data, future devices will enable much more data to be stored. If a technique could be found to commercialize their single-atom approach, they further note, it would allow for holding something as massive as Apple's iTunes library of songs on something as small as a credit card. This special microscope had many applications and one of them was building and measuring single-atom bits via holmium. They applied the current using a metal needle in a scanning tunneling microscope. "We conducted this research to understand what happens when you shrink technology down to the most fundamental extreme - the atomic scale".
This breakthrough from IBM could create a world where phones, computers, and data centers will become smaller, PC World reported.
Now researchers can use what IBM learned to develop new high-density storage that works outside a lab, probably using a small number of atoms that can help each other remain stable at room temperature, Lutz said.
Atoms, it may not surprise you to hear, are pretty much the smallest unit of matter that we can manipulate reliably and expect to stay still.
The holmium atom used IBM to store a 1 or 0.
This means that imbuing individual atoms with a 0 or 1 is the next major step forward and the next major barrier in storing data digitally, both increasing capacity by orders of magnitude and presenting a brand new challenge to engineers and physicists. This is the ultimate storage feat - one bit on one magnetic atom. But IBM has outdone them all by reading and writing data to a single atom.
IBM had a quantum computer announcement earlier this week.
The company demonstrated that two magnetic atoms could be written and read independently even when they were separated by just 1 nanometre, which could culminate in a magnetic storage system that is 1,000 times denser than today's hard disk drives and solid state memory chips.