Delft researchers make kilobytes of memory on an atomic scale

Jul

19

2016

Scientists at TU Delft have made rewritable memory which is formed by shifting only one chlorine atom, a 0 or a 1. Thus they managed to create a memory block of one kilobyte or 8000 bits.

In comparison with the current forms of storage is that an order of magnitude of two to three times more. The team was able to reach a storage capacity that would come out on a large scale at 80 terabits, or 10 terabytes per square centimeter. The storage itself is still only very cumbersome: it must be done at -196 ° C or the temperature of liquid nitrogen in a vacuum. Also, the read and write speeds are very slow: reading a block of 8 x 8 bits takes just over a minute and writing will be about 3 minutes per block.

The whole memory block of a kilobyte consists of a grid of 12 by 12 blocks of 8 bytes, or 64 bits, explains Sander Otte, investigator and scientist at TU Delft on Tweakers out. “In order to separate the bits from a chlorine atom, there must also be chlorine atoms to overlie the bit, and because each atom has three or four neighbors, the atoms remain securely in place. This single layer of chlorine atoms lies on a copper substrate.” The atoms are ionically bound in that it is a salt compound, namely copper chloride. “As a result, the atoms sit relatively firmly on the surface, while those atoms in the past with other experiments, there are free runs loose,” said Otte, for which the operation makes a comparison with a sliding puzzle.

Each block of chlorine atoms is one and a half times as high as it is wide because the chlorine atoms have to be able to slide in the longitudinal direction and to 0 or to propose a 1. The atoms are read or shifted with the aid of a scanning tunneling microscope, or STM. This type of microscope can not only atoms “see” individual, but also shift them. The microscope is one at the individual atoms back and can thus read and write memory. In addition, an empty space is a 0 and a space filled with a chlorine atom, a 1.

“An essential step in that process is that it can operate completely autonomously, so it is good to scale up. We have written a number of blocks here and is a marker that the block is broken, so you can around work damaged sectors. ” There is, according to Otte no physical reason why scaling might not: “The copper crystal we use is millimeters in size where we run into is that the STM microscale can accurately read, but if you want to scale up need a stepper motor. which are much less precise. There is a role for industrial development. Physically, I do not see any obstacle. ”

Yet, temperature still a problem, though it is a lot less difficult to be cooled with liquid nitrogen to 77k instead of just above absolute zero of -273 degrees Celsius to earlier experiments were performed. The first experiments with arranging atoms were the early 90s made by IBM. The company managed to arrange 25 xenon atoms. “The technique has not really changed over the last 25 years and we have now really invented anything new,” said Otte. “There are in our 8000 missing atoms in place and 60,000 chlorine atoms and the system also works autonomously.”

A next step is to look to other atoms within the halogens. “We can look at other halogens, such as jew. Perhaps there are combinations that go towards room temperature. But for me personally, the message data storage over. We can control a world with atomic precision very good. If we have the freedom to this atom to lay there and atom there, then you can understand those traits. then only our imaginations can limit data storage and then I find a simple example. ”

Otte hopes that the “simple recipe” is quickly reproduced by others. “Many businesses and universities have the equipment and can now get to work.

When asked why they used a text by the famous physicist Richard Feynman in their example, says Otte: “Feynman was a visionary He said to take away one point psychological barriers against his peers, he literally described in a few sentences.. that we ever anything by 100 nanometers. And we can already do with one nanometer apart things. ”

Otte has not only done the work. His PhD student Floris Kalff has particularly been the automation cost. The article can be found in Nature Nanotechnology.

Scanning tunneling microscope images of atomic rewritable memoryScanning tunneling microscope images of atomic rewritable memoryScanning tunneling microscope images of atomic rewritable memory
1. Description atom markers 2. Memory of 1KB with part of Richard Feynman’s lecture in which he says “there is plenty of room at the bottom” 3. Same memory with another text from “The Origin of Species” or Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

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