Scientists Discover a Way to Store and Retrieve Images from a Cloud of Gas

We’ve by no means reached the limits of flash and hard drive storage capabilities, and newer WiFi capabilities open up a seemingly unlimited amount of cloud storage, but a group of researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland have taken the term “cloud” a bit literally. They’ve managed to store and retrieve two sequential images in a cloud of rubidium atoms.

The specifics, which you can find here, are somewhat complicated and non-scientific types may want to stay away; but the result of years of experimentation is that they have now been able to store images of the letters T and N in the atom cloud, and then retrieve them with 90-percent accuracy. This breakthrough is a big step towards the future of what scientists refer to as “quantum memory.” It’s true that you probably won’t be seeing quantum memory cards any time soon, but this technology can only lead to a future with more storage options — and that we’re all for.

(via Technology Review via Engadget)

  • perceptionalreality

    Yeah, they’ve been able to retrieve it NANOSECONDS later. Kind of like how you can stare at a high contrast scene and then close your eyes or stare at a blank wall and see a negative of the scene. 

    A decade ago I read in Wired magazine about IBM developing the ability to store and retrieve terabytes worth of data in one inch cube crystals with lasers. Just one example of countless technologies like this that have been researched yet we haven’t seen anything come of it yet.

    And, quite frankly, I can’t conceive of how storing data in a cloud of gas (which is inherently shifting and unstable, at least organizationally) could ever be practical. Why spend time on that when there are so many more practical concepts that have been proven but have not yet been put into use? 

    Whenever I read about stories like this I have to shake my head and wonder how many people are getting paid how much to do this stuff. Amazing. 

  • doc

    Everything you have “seen that come out” so far is the product of an
    accumulated, progressive scientific knowledge.  You, as a mere citizen,
    need not understand or approve what scientists do or do not.  You can
    [understand and critique], and you may be taken seriously if and only if you base your
    critique on the original article, not the blog summary.

    Whenever I read comments like this, I have to shake my head and
    wonder how many people still have their heads in the dark ages.

  • Stephan Zielinski

    The point of the research is not to store a regular bit.  It’s to store a quantum bit, which is not just a bit plus a cool buzzword; it’s a fundamentally different thing.  See Wikipedia’s Quantum computer for background on what a quantum bit is, and the paper itself to see what they’ve actually done: Temporally multiplexed storage of images in a Gradient Echo Memory.

  • perceptionalreality

    Right. Because from the SUMMARY of my views on the issue you now have a full understanding of my own understanding of physics, information technology, etc. 

    Oh, and I love the “as a mere citizen” line. Condescend much? 

    Back to my point, every form of data storage (which is precisely what makes the story relevant to this blog) currently in widespread (commercially available) use is a matter of incremental changes to technology that is now half a century old. 

    Your comment seems to indicate that you took my comment to mean that I feel I have the authority to approve research projects and budgets and so forth. Or even that I am opposed to research and would be more comfortable in the dark ages? Your conclusion is so far from what I actually said (as opposed to what your own arrogance tells you I said) it’s quite laughable. Thanks for that. :)