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The world's smallest magnetic data storage unit
Date:1/12/2012

This release is available in German.

Scientists from IBM and the German Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) have built the world's smallest magnetic data storage unit. It uses just twelve atoms per bit, the basic unit of information, and squeezes a whole byte (8 bit) into as few as 96 atoms. A modern hard drive, for comparison, still needs more than half a billion atoms per byte. The team present their work in the weekly journal Science this Friday (13 January 2012). CFEL is a joint venture of the research centre Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY in Hamburg, the Max-Planck-Society (MPG) and the University of Hamburg. "With CFEL the partners have established an innovative institution on the DESY campus, delivering top-level research across a broad spectrum of disciplines," says DESY research director Edgar Weckert.

The nanometre data storage unit was built atom by atom with the help of a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. The researchers constructed regular patterns of iron atoms, aligning them in rows of six atoms each. Two rows are sufficient to store one bit. A byte correspondingly consists of eight pairs of atom rows. It uses only an area of 4 by 16 nanometres (a nanometre being a millionth of a millimetre). "This corresponds to a storage density that is a hundred times higher compared to a modern hard drive," explains Sebastian Loth of CFEL, lead author of the Science paper.

Data are written into and read out from the nano storage unit with the help of an STM. The pairs of atom rows have two possible magnetic states, representing the two values '0' and '1' of a classical bit. An electric pulse from the STM tip flips the magnetic configuration from one to the other. A weaker pulse allows to read out the configuration, although the nano magnets are curr
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Contact: Dr. Thomas Zoufal
presse@desy.de
49-408-998-1666
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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