vacancies advertise contact news tip The Vault
facebook rss twitter

Dutch scientists create 500Tb per square inch hard drive

by Mark Tyson on 19 July 2016, 12:31

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qac4po

Add to My Vault: x

Scientists based at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have built a working prototype storage device which “uses single atoms to store data”. The device packs in hundreds of times more data per square inch than the best current available tech. The headlining 500 Terabits per square inch data capacity is about 500x better than the highest capacity hard disks available now.

“In theory, this storage density would allow all books ever created by humans to be written on a single post stamp,” said lead scientist Sander Otte, explaining the potential of this research.

In the prototype a flat copper bed was covered with about 60,000 chlorine atoms scattered at random, purposely leaving roughly 8,000 empty spaces among them. Next a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) arranged the atoms into a grid with gaps, as you can see in the pictures. Atoms can be pushed around to leave holes, making patterns that can represent data. Thus data is recorded like components in a sliding puzzle (see video above).

Speed is an issue with the storage right now. The initial ‘formatting’ of the one kilobyte storage space took about a week, however re-writes to change the data stored upon it took “just a few hours”.

For the prototype to work an ultra-clean vacuum environment is required and operations take place at very low temperature (liquid nitrogen 77K). This is therefore more of a proof of concept than a practical storage device at its prototype stages. The scientists admit that “actual storage of data on an atomic scale is still some way off,” but this demonstration brings it a good step closer. As a next step other surface metals and atoms similar to Chlorine will be compared for performance and stability.



HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

Login with Forum Account

Don't have an account? Register today!
“Speed is an issue with the storage right now. The initial ‘formatting’ of the one kilobyte storage space took about a week”

So set it formatting now, come back at the end of time?

Interesting tech though
I'm not sure what's new here. IBM wrote the letters “IBM” with xenon atoms on a metal surface in the 90s. No I'm wrong, 80s - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_(atoms)

Wall St Journal link is paywalled, but:
http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a21877/data-storage-breakthrough-chlorine-atoms/

And:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36824902
Because the chlorine atoms are surrounded by other chlorine atoms (except near the holes), they keep each other in place.

Oh and found the arxiv link:
https://arxiv.org/abs/1604.02265

So the clever bit is the atoms form a nice orderly grid and relatively stable (in liquid nitrogen). Cool.

Thing is, that storage density is just useless without scalable read/write speeds. Needing a moving part (the chlorine atoms) is a step backwards from SSDs. Changing from a single atom to some much larger atom that can store a charge/spin state might allow setting a bit without needing to physically move atoms around. It might be combinable with holographic read/write techniques, and not require liquid nitrogen to keep it stable.

I guess this is just one part of the puzzle, and if it all comes together we might get 100TB SSD drives in 20 years.
Platinum
“Speed is an issue with the storage right now. The initial ‘formatting’ of the one kilobyte storage space took about a week”

So set it formatting now, come back at the end of time?

Interesting tech though

We could always scale it up raid 0
Atomic scale storage sounds incredibly volatile, you'd definitely need error correction for when solar particles blast into them. Insane density though, we're going to need a lot more bandwidth.
Platinum
“Speed is an issue with the storage right now. The initial ‘formatting’ of the one kilobyte storage space took about a week”

So set it formatting now, come back at the end of time?

Interesting tech though

Formatting hard drives or floppies or even punch cards wasn't much faster when the tech was first invented.