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IBM fits a bit on an atom, eyeing ever-smaller devices

Stephen Lawson | March 9, 2017
An IBM research team says the breakthrough could lead to storage that's much denser than available now

The IBM team applied an electrical current to an atom of the rare-earth mineral Holmium, commonly used in strong magnets, and magnetized it in one direction. Then they applied another current to make it “flip” and represent a different value. They applied the current using a metal needle in a scanning tunneling microscope.

To read those values, IBM then used a single iron atom to measure the magnetic current passing through the atom. That technique is also new, IBM says.

Though commercially available storage may never get to one bit per atom, it’s important to study density and small features in hardware as chip manufacturing flirts with its limits, Lutz said. “We’re jumping to the end of Moore’s Law and working our way backward.”

 

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