Every single moment, humankind produces extraordinarily high amounts of data. Unless we are willing to slow down our progress, it is vital that scientists find sufficient mechanisms to adequately store that data. Recent research brings us closer to achieving that goal. It seems that we are progressing to the point that we may soon be able to store data in a single atom!
Why an atom?
Since atoms are the basic building blocks of matter, they are the smallest possible object within which we would possibly be able to store information. If we figure out how to accomplish this feat, we could potentially reduce the size of hard drives by a thousand times. Scientists have already embarked on this endeavor and made some progress.
However, the progress is only on a small scale and is in very specific lab conditions, typically very cold setups.
From lab to life
A recent development has advanced the possibility of extending this mechanism to be effective at room temperature. There were several vital factors. One of these factors was the use of single cobalt atoms on a layer of semiconducting black phosphorus.
Another vital step was to magnetize the atoms to store bits. This is a change from the usual approach which involves the use of spin angular momentum (the way in which electrons spin while orbiting the nucleus).
When will we have this technology?
Right now it’s just a possibility, and there may be a long wait before this proof-of-principle has advanced from the lab to your future computer. However, the possibilities currently seem very promising. Specifically, the new method and materials may be able to solve the predicament of keeping atoms both stable and magnetized enough to be utilized efficiently.
So while you will not be able to enjoy this invention very soon, it will be worth the wait. Whenever we will be able to jam this setup into a laptop or cell phone, you will likely be able to store all the videos and photographs that you would like.