The ability to move single atoms, one of the smallest particles of any element in the universe, is crucial to IBM’s research in the field of atomic-scale memory. In 2012, IBM scientists announced the creation of the world’s smallest magnetic memory bit, made of just 12 atoms. This breakthrough could transform computing by providing the world with devices that have access to unprecedented levels of data storage. But even nanophysicists need to have a little fun. In that spirit, the scientists moved atoms by using their scanning tunneling microscope to make … a movie, which has been verified by Guinness World Records™ as The World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film.
Exploring the limits of storage … and moviemaking
Today, it takes roughly one million atoms to store a single bit of data on a computer or electronic device. A bit is the basic unit of information in computing that can have only one of two values, one or zero. Eight bits form a byte. Recently, IBM Research announced it can now store that same bit of information in just 12 atoms.
From 1,000,000 to 12 — that’s a dramatic breakthrough that not only has the potential to make our computers and devices smaller and more powerful, but also holds enormous implications for the way entire industries operate.
From disk drums to atomic memory
The first magnetic hard disk, RAMAC, was developed by IBM in the late 1950’s – the drive consisted of large drums full of magnetic platters that allowed for random read and write access and stored 5–10 MB of data. Today’s atomic memory breakthrough builds upon some of the same concepts used in RAMAC, but allow for much denser storage at the atomic level that could carry entire libraries of music and movies on a small device.
As big data gets bigger, moves faster and becomes more uncertain, dramatic increases in storage density are needed in order to gain insights and make important decisions.
As big data continues to get bigger and move faster, cognitive systems that learn about specific domains such as medicine and interact more naturally with people will require dramatic performance advances in key information processing components such as memory, networking and storage.
From IBM Research.