…….Using a scanning tunneling microscope, the researchers were able to encode a bit of data in just 12 iron atoms kept at a temperature just a few degrees above absolute zero. Smaller numbers of atoms were too unstable to act as bits – without neighbours to interact with and stabilise them, the atoms behaved like quantum objects that existed in multiple spin states at once.
The team then placed eight of the 12-atom bits side by side, creating a byte of data made of 96 atoms. Because no magnetic field strayed from each cluster of 12 atoms, the bits could be placed together very closely, creating a byte 100 times as dense as those used in today’s hard drives. “You can pack these things as close as you want,” says Heinrich….
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