Chris J Powell

Atomic Memory a Reality…someday

Researchers at IBM have discovered a way to increase the density of data storage by 100 times by developing the world’s smallest bit that can be stored on just 12 atoms.  In comparison to today’s magnetic storage medium which requires about 1 million atoms to store a single bit of information.

This work is the culmination of nearly 30 years of nanotechnology research and may be one of the most significant breakthroughs in modern computing history.

Antiferromagnetism uses what is called “reverse spin” to build a computing device that scales down to to the lowest point possible.  The challenge with getting this to work in the past has been the interaction of the magnetic charge to influence neighboring charged streams but IBM describes this variation of standard magnetic charge (similar to what keeps a fridge magnet on the refrigerator) and from a reference note on the technology:

The researchers at IBM Research overcame this obstacle by using an unconventional form of magnetism called antiferromagnetism. Using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), they atomically engineered a grouping of 12 antiferromagnetically coupled atoms that stored a bit of data for hours at low temperatures. To achieve this, they took advantage of antiferromagnetic atoms’ inherent alternating magnetic spin directions.


When we look at this technology and wrap our heads around what this will mean to the miniaturization of computing devices, this is a quantum step towards absolute that does not typically happen and would effectively bypass Moore’s Law and build the end game in one step.  In looking at this concept, the idea of quantum computing that can not only shrink the size of the chip but also exponentially increase the ability to conduct millions of simultaneous calculations was coined by a Physicist named Paul Benioff but built upon and really defined all the way back in 1985 by David Deutcsh.

It will be some time before there is a practical application to this but the unlocking of this new possibility opens up great potential for many applications, the most nefarious being SkyNet like control with Artificial Intelligence.

The future is bright though, despite the negative potential illustrated in the Terminator movies.  This absolute miniaturization can be applied to artificial limbs and organs, to wearable personal computers (or for that matter…implanted computers).  Dark Future or Bright Future…time is moving at an incredible pace.  Hold on because it is not going to get any slower.


Chris J Powell

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