Researchers from the Netherlands have discovered a way to write data on to single atoms, which is equivalent to storing 500 terabits of data on a single square inch.
The atomic scale hard drive is being developed by researchers Sander Otte and his colleagues at the University of Delft.
According to an estimate, the entire contents of the US Library of Congress can be stored within 0.1mm wide cube and all the books that were ever written can be stored on an area the size of postage stamp.
The results have been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology’s latest issue. The system however still needs considerable amount of work before its ready for commercial release.
Most importantly, it is the proof-of-principle that has laid the groundwork to develop practical atomic-scale data storage devices.
In order for this kind of data storage to work, it requires, manipulating individual atoms, which is a difficult task in itself. While scientists have been able to manipulate individual atoms over two decades, this, time it was done relatively easily.
In the experiment, the research team placed individual chlorine atoms on a copper surface resulting in a perfect square grid. Atoms on the surface were manipulated using tiny, sharp needle probes which can be used to push the atoms around to rewrite bits of data.
Every bit consists of two positions, on a surface of cooper atoms and one chlorine atom that we can slide back and forth between these two positions.
When the chlorine atom is in a top position, it will result in 1 and when the chlorine atom is in bottom position, then it is treated as 0.
These memory blocks were arranged in memory blocks of 8 bytes (64 bits) and gave each block a marker made of the same type of holes as the scanned pattern for chlorine atoms present in it. In this way, the team can easily locate and write data.
Researchers say that they were inspired by QR codes used in phones. And they believe that just like it they have successfully created it on atomic scale.
Right now, one of the major obstacles for this technology is that it works at -331 degrees Celsius. The research team is working to bring the technology to more ambient temperature.