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500 Terabit Per Square Inch Storage Density Achieved

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 01:26PM

Everyday humanity generates more and more information that it wants to keep on various media including hard disks and flash drives. To keep up with the demand for more storage, storage density has to increase and now researchers at Delft University and the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience have successfully encoded bits to single atoms. This allows for 500 Terabits to be stored in a square inch, which would be enough to contain every book humanity has written on a postage stamp.

In order to encode the data to single atoms, the researchers turned to a scanning tunneling microscope, which has a sharp needle to probe atoms on a surface on at a time. This allowed them to precisely move chlorine atoms along a copper surface into one of two positions. In one position a hole is beneath an atom, which the researchers read as a 1, and when the hole was above the atom, it was read as a 0. By only have the chlorine atoms by other chlorine atoms and these holes, this method is more stable for storing data than others that rely on loose atoms. Additionally, the researchers arranged the memory into blocks of eight bytes and each block has a marker. These markers are similar to QR codes and contain information about the memory block, identifying if the block is damaged for some reason.

As you might expect with the manipulation of single atoms, this method is not ready for any commercial system. It requires a very clean vacuum environment and temperatures around that of liquid nitrogen. This is still an important step towards such a goal, but there is a still a lot to do.

Source: Delft University of Technology

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