IBM Uses 36-Year-Old Microscope To Store Data In A Single Atom, Creates World’s Smallest Magnet


Short Bytes: Using their Nobel-prize winning microscope, the researchers at IBM have devised a way to successfully read and write one bit of data on a single Holmium atom having magnetic nature. This can propel the development of hard drive solutions that would be 1000 times denser than the current HDDs and SSDs.

When everyone is talking about solid-state or some other kind of memory alternative (that lasts 1000 years) for the magnetic hard drives, a new research announced by IBM can save this magnet-based storage media from becoming extinct.

Conventional hard drives use around 100,000 atoms to store 1 bit of information. IBM has successfully stored 1 bit of data on a single Holmium atom using their Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM). In 1986, IBM won a Nobel prize for creating the microscope which they originally built in 1981.

Holmium is known to possess magnetic behavior. The magnetic orientation of the atom is changed using electrical current and it’s frozen using liquid helium to read/write data. IBM says they’ve created the world’s smallest magnet.

IBM Atom Storage 1
Image: Microscope view of Holmium atom | Almaden (IBM research)

The researchers were able to read and write data on two individual magnetic atoms separated by a distance of 1 nanometer. A magnetic storage media so created can be around 1000 times denser than the SSDs and hard disk drives we currently use. We can imagine a credit card sized hard drive capable of storing the complete iTunes library, that’s 35 million songs.

You should also read about the latest universal quantum computer IBM is working on. Don’t forget to drop your feedback.

Also Read: Airbus Reveals Its Autonomous 2-in-1 Flying Car “Pop.UP” From The Future

Aditya Tiwari

Aditya Tiwari

Aditya likes to cover topics related to Microsoft, Windows 10, Apple Watch, and interesting gadgets. But when he is not working, you can find him binge-watching random videos on YouTube (after he has wasted an hour on Netflix trying to find a good show). Reach out at [email protected]
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