Here’s How We Could Store Data on a Single Atom

Here’s How We Could Store Data on a Single Atom


Data and data storage are in a never-ending
arms race. The size and cost of memory shrinks while
video and photo resolutions go up, and file sizes balloon. The end result is you just never seem to have
enough room on your phone or laptop for all your stuff, and you have to choose which photos
of your cat to delete so you can take more photos of your cat right now cuz she’s doing
something so cute. But there’s a limit to how small magnetic
storage can get, and scientists are inching towards it. The basic building block of data is a bit,
represented by either a 1 or a 0. The basic building block of ordinary matter
is an atom. So scientists have been trying to store a
bit using a single atom. It actually makes sense when you think about
it. Magnetic storage has been common in computers
since the 1950s, when hard disk drives held a whopping 4-ish MB and was the size of a
refrigerator. Magnets have a north and south pole, so depending
on which way they’re oriented they can represent a one or a zero. Usually magnetic fields are only noticeable
when the magnetic fields of whole clusters of atoms are aligned the same way, but zoom
in closer and you’ll see the electrons of atoms basically act as tiny magnets in and
of themselves, so theoretically a single atom could be enough to represent a bit. But down at that atomic scale, things can
be chaotic. Atoms are extremely sensitive to their surroundings,
which can cause their north and south poles to flip. To store data reliably, scientists need to
prevent this flipping, and most experiments in single atom data storage solve this problem
with extreme cold. In July of 2018 one experiment used holmium
atoms as their magnets, and subjected them to extreme conditions. They found the holmium atoms retained their
magnetization even in a very strong magnetic field of 8 Tesla, so long as they were kept
below 45 Kelvin. Still the researchers hope that the holmium’s
resilience points to more stable data storage at less extreme temperatures. And finally in September of 2018 scientists
announced they had come up with a different approach to single atom storage altogether. Using cobalt atoms on a background of black
phosphorus, the scientists created an energy difference between the cobalt atom’s orbitals,
or the regions where electrons orbit the nucleus. This allowed them to use the electron’s
orbital angular momentum to create the bits, instead of their spin angular momentum like
in previous experiments. Changing the orbital angular momentum has
a bigger energy barrier, which should make the bits more stable at higher temperatures,
though they’ve only been tested in extreme cold so far. Even if scientists make single atom storage
stable at room temperature, there are still other problems to solve before it goes mainstream. Data also need to be easy to write with acceptable
an signal to noise ratio. Most experiments in single atom data storage
use a Scanning Tunnelling Microscope to arrange the atoms one by one, which is not effective
enough for practical use. Single atom storage has a long way to go,
and in the meantime, it looks like I’m just not going to have enough space for more pictures
of my cat. So storage on atom might take a while, but
DNA data storage could be here in a few years. Check out our video about it here. Fun fact, there are also some scientists out
there trying to store data on a single ELECTRON! It’s called electronic quantum holography,
and it very confusing, please don’t make me do a video about it. Catch ya next time on Seeker!

100 thoughts to “Here’s How We Could Store Data on a Single Atom”

  1. 0:55 Bullshit science. The BITS on a hard disk are not magnetic to a North or South – they are either Magnetised or NOT.
    " Each one of those areas can be independently magnetized (to store a 1) or demagnetized (to store a 0). Magnetism is used in computer storage because it goes on storing information even when the power is switched off. If you magnetize a nail, it stays magnetized until you demagnetize it. I" https://www.explainthatstuff.com/harddrive.html

  2. Hey Seeker…can you make a video about why people get irritated by annoying sound of chalk while writing on a black board?????

  3. Oh man, you suck.
    You are dumb. I know you are trying your best. And maybe this video was intended for an intentionally wide audience.

    I can’t tell though.

  4. Colliding identical atoms spread into a countable infinite amount of directions. I've rounded it down to a state similar to breathing in and out.

    Like how dial-up was first built.

  5. My brain hungers for quantum and holograms. You can't expect me to sit here and just let the opportunity to know things about these things fly by. I can't. I need to know what this electronic quantum holography thing is. Please… make a video on it.

  6. 64 GB is more than enough for the cat pictures I store. I wonder what kinds of stuff people do that they reach the limit on their 256 GB phones.

  7. I don't think I've watched a video on this channel before.
    Does that rainbow background trip anybody else out?
    I could barely hear the host over the noise coming from that white blob over his left shoulder.
    (Actually now that I wrote it. I don't reckon this is likely to bother too many others… So, nevermind?)

  8. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh Cat jokes? on the internet? wow! cutting comedy! if you don't have anything funny to say, dont try at all. cringey. jesus the half drowned looking rat went in for second cat joke.

  9. Initiative Q is an attempt by ex-PayPal guys to create a new payment system instead of payment cards that were designed in the 1950s. The system uses its own currency, the Q, and to get people to start using the system once it's ready they are allocating Qs for free to people that sign up now (the amount drops as more people join – so better to join early). Signing up is free and they only ask for your name and an email address. There's nothing to lose but if this payment system becomes a world leading payment method your Qs can be worth a lot. If you missed getting bitcoin seven years ago, you wouldn't want to miss this.

    Here is my invite link: https://initiativeq.com/invite/Sg3ZJDnam

    This link will stop working once I’m out of invites. Let me know after you registered, because I need to verify you on my end.

  10. Haha, I hear bullshit. There isn't going to be one bit per atom. This isn't ever going to be a thing. We are reaching peak computer technology and with that technology will stagnate. People need to realize universal laws constrain human achievements. Stop thinking science fiction bullshit will one day be real. There isn't going to be interstellar space travel, there isn't going to be asteroid mining, there isn't going to one bit per atom data storage, there is never going to be profitable fusion energy, there isn't ever going to be a jetpack that has a decent duration, and many other things will also not happen. Get mad.

  11. lol i can store data on a single atom..in a giant machine, in a freezing cold warehouse hahahahahahaha, yea roll that shit out already

  12. So 3 main reason:
    _closer to user
    _water cooling
    _energy efficiency by use sea tide to generate electricity

  13. Thanks! It's always exciting to hear about (and contemplate) possibilities on the frontiers of science. Such things represent the not-so-distant future in which we might find ourselves. I count myself lucky to live in an age when tomorrow's technology can be glimpsed today, and I can get some idea of what that tomorrow may look and feel like. Rikki Tikki.

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