Storing 62 Terabytes of data on single atom memory

Modern society on daily basis creates more than a billion gigabytes of new data. To capture and store all this data in coming years, there needs to be a new technology capable of doing so on an effective note.

Dutch scientists have found out an innovative way to store 500 Terabits (Tb) or 62.5 Terabytes (TB) of data on a single atom memory of Chlorine and Copper. If this technology succeeds on a further note, then it can give a tough time to hard disk makers, as the new tech has the potential to store 100 times more info than what the present day HDDs are capable off doing so.

Kavli Institute of Nano Science at Delft University in Netherlands has managed to build a memory of one kilobyte (8,000 bits) where each bit is represented by the position of one single chlorine atom.

The researchers have now reached to a storage density where 500 terabits of data can be stored on per square inch (Tbpsi). As 8 bits make one byte, 500tb/8 = 65 bytes approx.

In the year 1959, Physicist Richard Feynman challenged his colleagues to engineer the world at the smallest possible scale. In one of his renowned lectures “There’s plenty of room at the bottom”, he speculated that if we have a platform to arrange individual atoms in an exact orderly pattern, then it would be possible to store one piece of information per atom.

Researchers from Dutch University have honored Feynman by coding a section of his lecture on an area 100 nanometers wide. They used a ‘Scanning Tunneling Microscope(STM)’ where a sharp needle probes the atoms on a copper surface, one by one. The probes not only help the researchers view the atoms, but can also help them In pushing them around to rewrite the bits of data.

Bits 0 &1 can be viewed with this activity in the following way- Every bit consists of two positions on a surface of copper atoms and one chlorine atom that can slide back and forth between two positions. If the chlorine(Cl) atom is in the top position, then there is a hole beneath it which happens to be One. If the hole is in the top position and the chlorine atom is on the bottom, then the bit is zero. Chlorine atoms keep each other in place by surrounding themselves with other Cl atoms, except near the holes. This makes the atoms more stable than methods with loose atoms and more suitable for data storage

Dutch researchers have organized their memory in blocks of 8 bytes or 4 byts and gave each block a marker made of the same type of holes as the raster or scanned pattern of chlorine atoms, contained within it. That way, the data can be easily located and read.

The recent discovery is somewhat related to pixelated square barcodes or QR codes often used to scan tickets for airplanes or concerts. The markers work like miniature QR codes that carry info about the precise location of the block on the copper layer.

The code has the potential to indicate whether a block is damaged, for instance, due to some local contaminant or an error in the surface. That allows the storage medium to be scaled up easily to very big sizes, even if the copper surface is not entirely perfect.

Nevertheless, the memory only works in temperatures achieved through the use of liquid nitrogen or -321 degrees Fahrenheit.

May be the use of other material can help scientists achieve the feat at room temperature in coming days.

Storage analysts feel that all this upcoming tech which includes Microsoft’s data storage on DNA will prove useful for companies looking for innovative archival storage techniques. It can give a tough time to tape solution providers, until and unless a cost effective readable solution is available. But can never pose as danger for the high tech data solutions like Scale Out NAS or Integrated SAN in any way.


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