by Angela Guess
Charlie Foster of Wired UK reports, "The world's smallest data storage unit is a mere 4 x 16 nanometres. But this array of iron atoms has a storage density 100 times greater than that of a conventional hard drive, fitting one bit of data into 12 atoms, as opposed to the more typical million. The potential for storing large amounts of data on tiny devices is, well, huge. 'A patient's MRI scans could be stored on their National Insurance card,' says Sebastian Loth, a researcher at the German Centre for Free-Electron Laser Science, who helped develop the method."
Foster continues, "Collaborating with IBM's California-based Almaden Research Center, Loth's team arranged iron atoms in rows of six. The data is written into this unit using an electric pulse, at temperatures as low as -268 degrees Celsius. This pulse flips the magnetic state of pairs of atoms to represent either '0' or '1'; another pulse reads the data. The array is also aiding quantum-mechanics research. 'We are dealing with techniques and tools that manipulate at the quantum level,' says Loth. 'We must think of engineering at this atomic level if we are to go beyond current data-storage'."
photo credit: Wired