IBM determined the atomic density limits of magnetic memory
IBM Research scientists have successfully demonstrated the ability to store one bit of information in as few as 12 magnetic atoms. Today’s disk drives use about one million atoms to store a single bit of information. The ability to manipulate matter by its most basic components — atom by atom — could lead to the vital understanding necessary to build smaller, faster and more energy-efficient devices.
IBM scientists have taken a novel approach, beginning at the smallest unit of data storage, the atom, and demonstrated magnetic storage that is at least 100 times denser than today’s hard disk drives and solid state memory chips and 10,000 times denser than SRAM. Future applications of nanostructures built one atom at a time, using an unconventional form of magnetism called antiferromagnetism, could allow users to store 100 times more information than disk drives in the same space.
IBM Research scientists used antiferromagnets (which are not affected by neighboring magnetic fields) and a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to atomically engineer a grouping of twelve antiferromagnetically coupled atoms that stored a bit of data for hours at low temperatures. Taking advantage of their inherent alternating magnetic spin directions, they demonstrated the ability to pack adjacent magnetic bits much closer together than was previously possible. This greatly increased the magnetic storage density without disrupting the state of neighboring bits.
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