With the advent of the first personal computers in the distant 50s of the last century, scientists and engineers have spared no effort to reduce the size of information carriers. A breakthrough in this direction was the development by a team of the Delft University of Technology (Holland) technology for storing data using individual atoms.
According to IBM, the world creates up to 2.5 million terabytes of information every day, which needs to be stored somewhere, which requires huge technological and energy costs. Existing storage systems are made of discrete magnetic material or plastic with many tiny holes. However, the possibilities for their further minimization turned out to be limited.
Dutch scientists decided to use individual atoms to store information. As an experiment, a memory cell with a volume of 1 kilobyte was created, which fit on a rectangular copper plate measuring 95 x 125 nm (this is 750 times less than the thickness of a human hair), on which a matrix of chlorine atoms was applied.
Copper is the substrate, while the chlorine atoms reinforce each other and stabilize the matrix. As a result, scientists have created an environment with a storage density of 500 terabits per inch, 500 times that of the best commercial hard drives. In practice, this means that the text of all books ever written can be placed on a medium the size of a postage stamp.
It was possible to create an atomic-level information store using a scanning tunneling microscope. Thanks to the principle of quantum tunneling, scientists were able to rearrange individual atoms from one place to another, thus encoding the necessary information.
At the moment, atomic memory functions only in a complete vacuum at a temperature of -196 ° C. Despite this, storing data in individual atoms is a major achievement and a huge step forward. In the near future, a team of scientists plans to bring the technology to a more practical level.