New Storage Device Is Very Small, at 12 Atoms.

New York Times (01/12/12) John Markoff

IBM researchers have devised a method for magnetically storing data on arrays composed of just a few atoms in a breakthrough that could lead to a new class of nanomaterials for more power-efficient devices, and perhaps open up new avenues in quantum computing research. The researchers stored data on a 12-atom structure, whereas the most advanced magnetic storage systems have up to now required roughly 1 million atoms to store a single bit. The storage was effected by configuring two rows of six iron atoms on a surface of copper nitride atoms, using a scanning tunneling microscope. The antiferromagnetic properties of the atomic cluster make such closeness possible. The array was constructed at a temperature near absolute zero, but the researchers say the same experiment could be performed at room temperature with no more than 150 atoms. They also note that smaller atom groups start to exhibit quantum mechanical behavior, and could theoretically be arranged into Qbits. Antiferromagnetic materials are currently used to make recording heads employed in today’s hard disk drives and in the new spin-transfer-torque RAM memory chip. IBM researcher Andreas Heinrich says the design of novel materials using self-assembly techniques is a focus of many research groups.

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