Researchers working on atomic-level storage have found a way to store massive amounts of data in a tiny space. With a bit more improving, this technology could mean memory cards with tens of terabytes of storage.
The technology was developed by scientists at TU Delft, and it works by shuffling chlorine atoms around on a copper surface, where they naturally form a square grid. By leaving empty spots and rearranging the atoms around them like a sliding puzzle, they create patterns that can be read, not unlike QR codes.
By using individual atoms as data bits, the scientists managed to fit—hold on to your seats—1KB of data onto a square just 100 nanometers wide. If you do the math (thanks Engadget) that comes out to 62.5TB on a square inch.
This short video does a good job of explaining how the technology works in easy-to-understand terms:
Of course, there is a catch. Two, actually. As the video points out, the current tech requires that the storage medium be in an ultra-clean and very cold environment. But researchers are working hard to develop the tech further so it can make its way into the real world.
An SD card is 24mm x 32mm, or just a touch larger than a square inch. Imagine one that could hold 50TB of photos or more. The technology is a long way off from there—it currently uses a scanning tunneling microscope to move atoms around… not exactly standard tech inside your DSLR’s memory card slot—but it could conceivably lead there.
To find out more about this fascinating storage technology, head over to the TU Delft website by clicking here.