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An Atom is One Bit of Memory

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An atom, what used to be touted as, "The smallest whole particle of matter", is now one bit of memory. A bit, a nibble, a byte, and soon we have the latticework needed to produce meaningful data, manipulate it, perform calculations, and retrieve results.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have achieved a stability that is over a billion times that which was previously possible by placing a single holmium atom onto a platinum substrate at a temperature of about absolute zero (Appx. -460F). They have managed to stabilize the magnetic spin of this atom for up to ten minutes, where before only 200 nanoseconds or so was obtainable...

Currently, millions of atoms of various compounds are required to create and result in a single magnetic bit of information that is stable, say, on a hard disk in your computer.

According to Wulf Wulfhekel of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), “This does not only open up the possibility of designing more compact computer memories, but could also be the basis for the setup of quantum computers.”

Arthur Ernst of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics explains that, “In principle, holmium and platinum are invisible to each other as far as spin scattering is concerned.”

Much of the groundwork for quantum computing based on this notion of predicating a single bit of memory upon the state of a single atom can now be examined as a very real possibility for the near future. Imagine a chip that is smaller than the head of a pin, weilding more computing power than ten thousand laptops or smartphones - it's just around the corner.

The article is published in the current issue of Nature Magazine (#503) pp. 242-246 (14 November 2013), entitled, "Stabilizing the magnetic moment of single holmium atoms by symmetry", and authored by Toshio Miyamachi, Tobias Schuh, Tobias Märkl, Christopher Bresch, Timofey Balashov, Alexander Stöhr, Christian Karlewski, Stephan André, Michael Marthaler, Martin Hoffmann, Matthias Geilhufe, Sergey Ostanin, Wolfram Hergert, Ingrid Mertig, Gerd Schön, Arthur Ernst, and Wulf Wulfhekel.

To read more, you can find the complete article HERE