Feeds

IBM 'one atom, one bit' storage breakthrough

Is that a terabyte in your pocket, or...?

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

If you've been hankering for a multi-terabyte USB thumb drive, you may be in luck: IBM scientists have developed a technique that could — eventually — help increase data-storage densities by orders of magnitude.

The breakthrough, announced Friday, allows researchers to measure how long a bit of information can be retained in an individual atom. It does so by capturing, recording, and visualizing the magnetic properties of that atom in real time.

Using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to essentially record a "movie" of an atom's magnetic behavior, that behavior can now be analyzed at frame rates one million times faster than before, according to researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San José, California — down to a nanosecond time frame.

And as Andreas Heinrich, a physicist at the Almaden center pointed out: "To put this in perspective, one nanosecond to one second is the equivalent of one second to 30 years."

"This technique developed by the IBM Research team is a very important new capability for characterizing small structures and understanding what is happening at fast time scales," said Michael Crommie, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Crommie noted that such knowledge of atomic-level activity could lead to advancements in photovoltaics, and the Almaden researchers added quantum computing to the nascent fields that could benefit from the technique.

Sebastian Loth of IBM Research, a coauthor of the paper announcing the new technique, published in the current issue of Science, is interested in the advances in storage technology made possible by the STM probe: "This breakthrough allows us — for the first time — to understand how long information can be stored in an individual atom," he said.

With this new knowledge in hand, storage-device designers could, according to the researchers, "engineer the magnetic lifetime of the atoms to make them longer (to retain their magnetic state) or shorter (to switch to a new magnetic state) as needed to create future spintronic devices" in which a single atom could hold a single bit.

For a layman's-level explanation of how the technique works, check out IBM's press release. For a deep-geek dive into the details, you can purchase a copy of the Science article, "Measurement of Fast Electron Spin Relaxation Times with Atomic Resolution," here. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Gartner's Special Report: Should you believe the hype?
Enough hot air to carry a balloon to the Moon
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Dell The Man shrieks: 'We've got a Bitcoin order, we've got a Bitcoin order'
$50k of PowerEdge servers? That'll be 85 coins in digi-dosh
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.