Atom wranglers create rewritable memory
Engineers can only stuff so much computing power into devices like smartphones and tablets before they run up against physical barriers. Although Moore’s law famously predicts that the number of transistors people can squeeze onto memory chips will double every couple of years, technology cannot be miniaturized indefinitely. Researchers are trying to get around this by starting small — using individual atoms — to make big gains in data-storage capacity. Now, a team has developed a 1-kilobyte rewritable data-storage device using chlorine atoms arranged on a small metal surface. If the team expanded that surface to one square centimetre, it could hold about 10 terabytes of information, the researchers report on 18 July in Nature Nanotechnology1. “It’s by far the largest assembly on an atomic scale that’s ever been created, and it outperforms state-of-the-art hard disk drives by orders of magnitude in data capacity,” says lead study author Sander Otte, a physicist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.
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