World’s Smallest Hard Disk Uses Atomic Storage

Modern society is generating billions of gigabytes of new data each day – absolutely faster than the overall increase in the storage medium. According to IDC, the total volume of digital data around the world projected to exceed 16 zettabytes in 2017. Quite a gigantic number, isn’t it?

It’s an alarming situation wherein more data is producing than before storing the existed. As overall data usage increases, there should be some mechanism to ensure every single bit occupies as little space as possible. Maybe, the most up-to-minute technologies like Atomic Storage find its place in this context.

Also Read: History of Storage from Cave Paintings to Electrons (Infographic)

Recently, researchers at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University designed the world's smallest hard disk – a memory of 1 kilobyte where each bit represents the position of the single chlorine atom. This rewritable data storage device is capable of storing 500 Terabits per square inch, 500 times better than the best commercial hard disk available.

According to the lead-researcher Sander Otte, the storage density of 500 Tbpsi is enough to store all books created by humans, as it would be written on a single post stamp.

Faynman Element

Richard Faynman was an American theoretical physicist, who back in 1959 visualized – atoms could be arranged to store information in near future. In his lecture “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, he’s explaining this speculation. Otte and his colleagues actually coded a section of Feynman’s lecture on an area 100 nanometers wide.

The researchers used a Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) that uses a sharp needle to individually inspect the atoms of a surface. For encoding data in computers, the atoms represent a binary code. For Otte, the development of this storage device is like how sliding puzzles work.

He says – every bit is comprised of two positions lying on copper atom surface and a chlorine atom that can be slid back and forth between the two positions, which represents either "1" or "0". And, these chlorine atoms are surrounded by other chlorine atoms to create a more stable structure that makes an ideal medium for storing data.

In Real Practice

Though this technology offers a lot in terms of scalability in data storage, we’ve to wait a little more to see this – either in data centers or in consumer devices.

Otte adds:

“In its current form the memory can operate only in very clean vacuum conditions and at liquid nitrogen temperature (77 K), so the actual storage of data on an atomic scale is still some way off. But through this achievement we have certainly come a big step closer”

But as this technology enables storing of data to such a reduced scale, it’d make a substantial difference in future data storage so as to do it more efficiently. Even in consumer gadgets, these changes would reflect – to make them more reduced in size.

Let’s hope for that.

World’s Smallest Hard Disk Uses Atomic Storage was last modified: August 9th, 2016 by John Harris

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