IBM Drops Bomb on the Industry By Storing Data on an Atom

by Robert Best on April 19, 2017
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IBM storing data on an atom

Data storage has long been a major pain point for technology development, but a rather large (or small) breakthrough has resulted in data being stored on a single atom. The development comes from researchers at IBM, and it could have a potentially nuclear impact on the way that data storage functions.

The research team conducted experiments in regard to high-density storage in an attempt to see just how small they could go. The complex process yielded promising results, as they were able to store data on just a single atom.

Compare this to the current drives, made up of roughly 100,000 atoms, that are used to store a bit of data. Quite the improvement, huh?

An even more impressive feat was achieved in regard to the actual reading of the data. If bits are stored on two atoms, it’s possible that it can be read with only a nanometer in between the host atoms. Whether or not you understand all of the scientific or technical details, it’s clear that this means data could eventually be stored on very, very small mediums moving forward.

However, before you get too excited about these developments, we want to remind you that these are only experiments, not actual movements to make this type of data storage available to the public… yet. The technology used to store this data on an atom is incredibly sensitive, so much to the point where it just won’t work if it’s not in a controlled environment. In order for this type of technology to work, it needs to be stored at a very low temperature. Their sole goal was to find the smallest possible way to store data--not to find the smallest, commercially-viable way to store it.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the option isn’t going to be seen at all. While it might be uncommon at best, the research has proven that it is possible, so who knows what researchers might come up with in the future to make this type of storage commonplace.

If you think about it, this trend is pretty much par for the course in terms of data storage. Just a few decades ago, you may have been storing information on a hard disk drive the size of a brick, when now you can hold that much data (and more) on a flash drive or SD card.

What are your thoughts on “atomic data?” Do you think the power of the atom can be harnessed to change computing as we know it? What kind of new and exciting technologies do you think that such a discovery will bring about? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.

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