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Scientists store data in chlorine atoms

Image: Atomic-scale data storage
An atomic memory grid shows how a passage from physicist Richard Feynman’s famous lecture, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” was encoded using chlorine atoms on a copper surface. The grid is 96 nanometers wide and 126 nanometers deep. (Credit: TU Delft)

Researchers have stored and read out a kilobyte’s worth of data using the world’s smallest hard disk – a speck of copper that stores the bits on chlorine atoms – and they say the technology could someday hold vast amounts of data in a minuscule space.

The team says they reached a storage density of 500 trillion bits per square inch, which is 500 times better than the best commercial hard disk currently available.

“In theory, this storage density would allow all books ever created by humans to be written on a single post stamp,” Sander Otte, a researcher at Delft University’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in the Netherlands, said in a news release.

The technique is described today in a paper published online by Nature Nanotechnology.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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