A group of researchers at IBM claim to have reached the atomic limits for magnetic data storage.
The company said researchers in its San Jose laboratories have developed a nanoscale storage system, which can contain a bit of data within just 12 individual atoms. The researchers believe that the storage method is the smallest possible form of recording digital information.
The process uses a system known as anti-ferromagnetism to magnetically encode the information within the specially structured atoms. The result is a magnetic storage field that can retain information for hours at a time in low temperatures.
By contrast, current magnetic storage methods require upwards of one million atoms to store a bit of digital information.
IBM believes the format could eventually lead to the creation of storage drives, which are 100 times more dense than current magnetic and solid-state systems.
"The chip industry will continue its pursuit of incremental scaling in semiconductor technology but, as components continue to shrink, the march continues to the inevitable end point – the atom," said IBM Almaden Research atomic storage investigator Andreas Heinrich.
"We’re taking the opposite approach and starting with the smallest unit, single atoms, to build computing devices one atom at a time."
The use of nanotechnology has become an increasingly popular area of study among semiconductor researchers and manufacturers in recent years.
As conventional silicon-based designs approach their physical limits, many believe the development of nanoscale components will be essential for future computing breakthroughs.
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