Every day, modern society creates more than a billion gigabytes of new data. To store all this data, it is increasingly important that each single bit occupies as little space as possible. As reported in Nature Nanotechnology today, Floris Kalff and coworkers managed to bring this reduction to the ultimate limit: they built a memory of 1 kilobyte (8,000 bits), where each bit is represented by the position of one single chlorine atom.
With an areal storage density exceeding 500 Terabits per square inch, the memory outperforms existing state-of-the-art harddisk drives by three orders of magnitude. In theory, with this storage density all books ever written by mankind could be spelled out on the surface of a postage stamp.
Apart from being the largest atomically assembled architecture ever created, the memory also features the first demonstration of atomic-scale markers that allow the STM tip to navigate through the large array of bits. Markers indicate the start and end of each line, but can also state if a sector cannot be used for data storage due to contamination or a crystal defect. Such protocols are crucial for scaling-up technology beyond a few hundred bits.
The movie below demonstrates the mechanism of the atomic storage memory.
Check here for an overview of press coverage of ‘the kilobyte’.