Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A step closer to single-atom data storage

13.07.2018

Despite the rise of solid-state drives, magnetic storage devices such as conventional hard drives and magnetic tapes are still very common. But as our data-storage needs are increasing at a rate of almost 15 million gigabytes per day, scientists are turning to alternative storage devices.

One of these are single-atom magnets: storage devices consisting of individual atoms stuck ("adsorbed") on a surface, each atom able to store a single bit of data that can be written and read using quantum mechanics. And because atoms are tiny enough to be packed together densely, single-atom storage devices promise enormous data capacities.


LEFT: STM image of Holmium single atom magnets. RIGHT: and Cobalt helper atoms on magnesium oxide.

Credit: F. Natterer/EPFL


View into the Scanning Tunneling Microscope used in the study. The tip reflection, seen at the top of the round silver crystal, is used to align the tip close to the sample surface. It is brought to within a few atomic radii to the surface where the tip "feels" the magnetism of the Holmium single-atom magnets. The sample has a diameter of 8 mm.

Credit: P. Forrester/EPFL

But although they are no longer science fiction, single-atom magnets are still in basic research, with many fundamental obstacles to be overcome before they can be implemented into commercial devices. EPFL has been at the forefront of the field, overcoming the issue of magnetic remanence, and showing that single-atom magnets can be used to read and write data.

In a new study published in Physical Review Letters, physicists at EPFL's Institute of Physics have used Scanning Tunneling Microscopy to demonstrate the stability of a magnet consisting of a single atom of holmium, an element they have been working with for years.

"Single-atom magnets offer an interesting perspective because quantum mechanics may offer shortcuts across their stability barriers that we could exploit in the future," says EPFL's Fabian Natterer who is the paper's first author. "This would be the last piece of the puzzle to atomic data recording."

The scientists exposed the atom to extreme conditions that normally de-magnetize single-atom magnets, such as temperature and high magnetic fields, all of which would pose risks to future storage devices.

Using a Scanning Tunneling Microscope, which can "see" atoms on surfaces, the scientists found that the holmium atoms could retain their magnetization in a magnetic field exceeding 8 Tesla, which is around the strength of magnets used in the Large Hadron Collider. The authors describe this as "record-breaking coercivity", a term that describes the ability of a magnet to withstand an external magnetic field without becoming demagnetized.

Next, they turned up the heat: The researchers exposed a series of Holmium single-atom magnets to temperatures of up to 45 Kelvin, (-233.15 degrees Celsius), which, for single atoms, is like being in a sauna. The Holmium single-atom magnets remained stable up to a temperature of 35K. Only at around 45K, the magnets began to spontaneously align themselves to the applied magnetic field. This showed that they can withstand relatively high temperature perturbations and might point to the way forward for running single-atom magnets at more commercially viable temperatures.

"Research in the miniaturization of magnetic bits has focused heavily on magnetic bistability," says Natterer. "We have demonstrated that the smallest bits can indeed be extremely stable, but next we need to learn how to write information to those bits more effectively to overcome the magnetic 'trilemma' of magnetic recording: stability, writability, and signal-to-noise ratio."

###

Other contributors

Institute for Basic Science (Korea)

Ewha Womans University (Korea)

Media Contact

Nik Papageorgiou
n.papageorgiou@epfl.ch
41-216-932-105

 @EPFL_en

http://www.epfl.ch/index.en.html 

Nik Papageorgiou | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.027201

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Putting food-safety detection in the hands of consumers
15.11.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

nachricht Next stop Morocco: EU partners test innovative space robotics technologies in the Sahara desert
09.11.2018 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>