Minutes-long data storage beats previous record of tiny fraction of a second
Individual atoms can store information for minutes at a time, researchers report in the Nov. 14 Nature. That’s more than a billion times as long as any previous experiment with single atoms.
Computer hard drives store data using magnetized cells that each consist of up to a million atoms; the direction of the atoms’ collective magnetization determines whether the cell holds a 1 or 0. Scientists would love to coax individual atoms to store information, but single atoms are unpredictable. For one thing, they continually exchange electrons with their surroundings, causing their magnetization to vary from one moment to the next.