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IBM Demos Single-Atom DRAM 150

An anonymous reader writes "A single-atom DRAM was demonstrated by IBM recently with a slow-mo movie of the atomic process of setting and erasing a bit on a single atom. Videos of atomic processes inside chips were not possible until now, leading to IBM's claim that its pulsed-STM (used to make the movie) will lead to a new atomic-scale semiconductor industry, and not just for memory chips, according to this EETimes story: 'The ultimate memory chips of the future will encode bits on individual atoms, a capability recently demonstrated for iron atoms by IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., which unveiled a new pulsed technique for scanning tunneling microscopes (STMs). Pulsed-STMs yield nanosecond time-resolution, a requirement for designing the atomic-scale memory chips, solar panels and quantum computers of the future, but also for making super efficient organic solar cells by controlling photovoltaic reactions on the atomic level.'"
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IBM Demos Single-Atom DRAM

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does microwaving it make it go faster?

  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @08:55PM (#33682766)

    are we talking H or Uuq sized DRAM? because I don't want to be obsolete within a year.

  • by rminsk ( 831757 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @08:59PM (#33682786)
    Video [] explaining the process.
    • by sfm ( 195458 )

      An interesting video, but he screwed up his nanosecond time
      analogy. A nanosecond is to a second as a second is to 30
      years, not 3 years as he states. (See time around 2:05)

      Still, an interesting concept (and yes, I'm picking nits)

  • by iceaxe ( 18903 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:02PM (#33682810) Journal

    One atom ought to be enough for anybody.


  • by Meshach ( 578918 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:10PM (#33682846)
    From TFA:

    The ultimate memory chips of the future will encode bits on individual atoms, a capability recently demonstrated for iron atoms by IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., which unveiled a new pulsed technique for scanning tunneling microscopes (STMs).

    So this has not already happened (as the article implies) but is an idea for future development.

    • I think the ultimate will be encoding in nucleons or even quarks.

    • IBM have written their name in atoms with variants on the electron microscope. So in a way they have built single atom RAM. Its just not fast enough yet.

    • From TFA: ...snip...

      So this has not already happened (as the article implies) but is an idea for future development.

      When you quote the article to dispute what the article implied something is seriously wrong. Either the fabric of the universe has become distorted and ... difficult ... or you don't know the difference* between the summary and the article.

      *slashdot editors

  • A movie that you view? A movie that "moves you"?
  • by GrumblyStuff ( 870046 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:10PM (#33682852)

    Don't electronics become more susceptible as they become smaller? How much redundancy would be needed now that you only have a single atom to hold a bit of memory?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hedwards ( 940851 )
      Yes and no, less likely that it will be hit but significantly more damaging if it is hit. What I'm wanting to know is what their plans are for error correction. A single atom is susceptible to all sorts of things that thousands or even hundreds of atoms aren't.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by The13thSin ( 1092867 )
        While I share your concern to a certain extent, the great thing here is we can "perfect" data density... at least to the atomic scale. With more research and/or data we'll know/learn the reliability and plan accordingly. Want data that you can trust to be right for 1000 years with 99.999998% certainty? Use solution X! Want data to be right for 1 year with 99.5% certainty? Use solution Y!

        Can't wait for a 1 PB "harddrive" which looks like a grain of sand!
  • Big deal... (Score:5, Funny)

    by skynexus ( 778600 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:18PM (#33682884)
    the processor on my computer runs on a single Atom already. I'm not impressed.
  • Atoms (Score:2, Funny)

    by transwarp ( 900569 )
    This gives new meaning to atomic writes.
  • Moore's Law.

    It just means we'll start looking at sub-atomic particles as new storage methods...

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:41PM (#33683010)
    This is a fantastic technical achievement. However, it has no meaningful direct link to ANY deployable technology. It is a measurement technique, and although the article does not say so, I'm sure it requires a temperature of somewhere below 1K, maybe below .001K. That is the only way they could be getting signals of these phenomena without getting swamped by thermal noise. All the stuff about single atom storage is boilerplate marketing hype. I assumes that they have a hot key to paste in how a new technology can be used for memory storage, or solar cells, or green technology or ...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      Even if is a solution searching for a problem, still worth. Who knows, maybe could be used in space (satellites, space probes, etc), maybe the next best place for datacenters is in orbit. Or be ready till some other advancements turn them into something practical.
      • The best place for data centers *IS* in orbit. We just need to perfect the communication between orbit and ground. Solar powered and vacuum cooled. Can't get much cheaper for operational expenses. Maitenance could be a pain though.

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          "vacuum cooled"

          Umm, no, Vacuums make damned good insulators and space has no place to radiate out heat unless there is another physical object VERY NEAR the heat-emitting equipment.

        • Yeah its definitely the best place for a datacenter, except for the high cost of deployment, the high cost of maintenance, the high cost of establishing a data link to the ground, and the the high latency.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "However, it has no meaningful direct link to ANY deployable technology."

      At least, as far as your poorly-educated mind can fathom. I've already got about seven different product ideas that this technology could be applied to, starting with atomic-level light emission.

      Maybe if you actually worked in the industry, you could think of uses. It's pretty apparent that you don't work in this field, however, with your statement.

  • I have enough trouble reading the print on MicroSD cards.
    • by Barny ( 103770 )

      Don't worry, just get one of the "32GB kingston microSD" from ebay, the screen printing is so blocky its great, shame about the failure rate though.

  • We Haskellers already use STM [] since a long time.
  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:16PM (#33683272) Homepage Journal

    Call me when the sense hardware is only an atom per bit.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Considering one uses electrons to sense atoms in this technique because electrons are smaller than protons and neutrons, you could have a fifty atom-wide sensor and still get the required resolution.

      Come on, now, you should know better.

      • so a circular sensor would be about 2000 atoms if it were only 1 atom thick, and that's ignoring the electronics necessary to operate each sensor (since you can't move such a tiny sensor). Come on, you should know better.

  • "... on the next Science"? Hmm... Maybe that means on the next cover of Science []? Maybe a little editing could fix that? And maybe typographical errors like "moview" could be fixed? Perhaps by actually reading the summary, Timothy?

    • by humphrm ( 18130 )

      Thank you. I thought that perhaps it was some inside language with quantum scientists that I didn't understand. And I'm an EE.

  • Just One Bit? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:32PM (#33683368) Homepage Journal
    Slackers! Most atoms have way more electrons than that!
    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      That is what I was thinking. Why couldn't we encode on the electron levels instead? Granted, we'd need serious computational power to figure out which atom would remain the most stable while we screw with the valence shells, but this shouldn't be TOO much of a problem.

  • Organic solar cells? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    but also for making super efficient organic solar cells by controlling photovoltaic reactions on the atomic level

    Where did that quote come from? All I saw was a vague mention of measuring the efficiency of solar cells. Not sure why they can't measure the efficiency of the ones they have already.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      They're talking about using this technology for plant-based (structure-wise) solar panel designs. Plants have a rather unique solar-powered system with quantum effects through the different types of chlorophyll that we don't fully understand, although we've made some breakthroughs with red and blue wavelengths and chlorophyll a and b (the others are found primarily in marine plant life, or cyanobacteria, and are useless for us to target.)

  • And by Moore's Law in 2 years it will be stored in a single proton.
    • by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:23PM (#33683682) Journal

      1 year after that we will be encoding data on quarks themselves.....

      6 months later we will make neutrinos our bitches for storing and processing data....

      3 months after that we will be creating even smaller particles from cosmic strings to process and store data int he fabric of spacetime.

      1 day later we will make God cry.

      • by Ant P. ( 974313 )

        And then we'll store the entire planet's data in an office desk drawer somewhere.

        2 weeks later we will find out the hard way that no-one made any backups.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Single proton? How about throughout the entire valence shell, on every level, with every electron?

      Granted, for more dense stuff with the one-off addition against the electron shells, protons would likely be the better way to go, though we haven't been able to measure the delta spin of protons or neutrons (As far as my weak knowledge can recall,) but we have it for electrons.

  • Says we should skip atoms and go directly to cospatial nudged quanta.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Well, my big theory involves using quantum distances as a quantification of binary/trinary data. I don't think it will work with quaternary but trinary should not be too hard to do and allow enough error-correction space to differentiate between the 'bits.'

  • Next up on Slashdot, the RIAA is now demoing a single-atom DRM. Will the minuscule security it provides make a difference? Find out three redirects from the blog post we link!

    • the RIAA are busy preparing the conditions for a big bang of a new universe with DRM built in at the subatomic level.Unfortunately, I predict that the encryption key will get leaked and they will either be forced to recall the entire universe, or just admit that they can't EVER stop you from doing whatever the heck you want with the content you purchased.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Khyber ( 864651 )

        I've already cracked their master-copy machines (own one myself for my own music recordings, and the data trace protection is WEAK,) so as it stands right now, unless they CAN modify the universe or come out with a new technology that I (or my company) can't purchase and bypass, they're SOL.

        I made it a lifelong goal to screw the assholes screwing us, and I'm pretty close to having enough money and power to do it.

        I will become the lobbyist you always dreamed of - one that actually cared about humanity instea

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Single-atom DRM?

      Guess we'll need nuclear reactors to crack that.

      But, then again, I don't think the **AA will exist by the time that comes around. I would really think by then independent artists might actually rule the scene as they show their unique talent versus the cultured BS of the other industries.

  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @02:39AM (#33684402) Journal

    TFA referes to "capability recently demonstrated for iron atoms by IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif"

    I remember that place. It used to be one of the biggest research parks in the are. Then an few years ago it became Hitachi, say "Inspire the Next", research after Hitachi bought that division of IBM many years ago. I think they shut it down a few years ago, because it all became tall weeds, and now a brand new Lowe's store emerged in its place.

    BTW, someone should collect slogans of Japanese companies: "Inspire the Next", WTF does that mean?

  • Crappy headline. (Score:3, Informative)

    by vegiVamp ( 518171 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @02:49AM (#33684442) Homepage
    The article is about IBM's new pulsed STM tech, and notes that "it may enable atom-scale memory in the future". They did NOT demonstrate single-atom DRAM.
  • Old hat (Score:3, Funny)

    by SpaghettiPattern ( 609814 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @05:12AM (#33684900)
    This is so horribly old hat. I mean, we know atoms for ages now so IBM needn't be smug about them. IBM, stop wasting our time and give the world a call as soon as single Higgs boson DRAM is available to retailers!

    Now, what was I doing again? Yes, studying Xiph' Digital Media Primer For Geeks and appreciating sample videos with scarcely clothed women.
  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:03AM (#33685974)
    Single-atom DRM.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun