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Atoms as bits? IBM is getting close (images)

Researchers from Big Blue say they have been able to store a bit of information with just 12 magnetic atoms. Today's disk drives require a minimum of a million atoms to do the same job.

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Daniel Terdiman

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8 bits

IBM today announced that it has found a way to store data at the atomic level. Researchers at Big Blue demonstrated that they can hold on to a bit of data with just 12 magnetic atoms. Today's disk drives require as much as 1 million atoms to store a bit.

This is a magnetic byte comprised of eight bits.

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CU2N

This picture, taken by the scanning tunneling microscope, demonstrates each atom as a green bump. It took IBM researchers just 12 atoms to store a bit of data, according to IBM.
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Antiferromagnet

This is a scanning tunneling microscope image of 12 iron atoms that were put together into an atomically precise antiferromagnet, IBM said.
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Antiferrogmagnet byte

According to IBM, this is "miniaturized information storage in atomic-scale antiferromagnets. The binary representation of 'S' (01010011) was stored in the Neel states of eight iron atom arrays."
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Antiferromagnet bit 2

According to IBM, this is "Antiferromagnetic order in an iron atom array revealed by spin-polarized imaging with a scanning tunneling microscope."
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Think

In this image, IBM shows a magnetic byte five times in various magnetic states. The white signal at the right edge means logic zero, while the blue signal corresponds to logic one. "Between two successive images the magnetic states of the bits were switched to encode the binary representation of the ASCII characters 'THINK,' according to IBM.

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