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News Link • Technology: Computer Hardware

Icy molecules hold 25,000 gigabytes in a space the size of a quarter

• by Rich Haridy

This research could lead to new, high-density data storage systems that potentially can hold more than 25 terabytes of data per square inch. That's around 25,000 gigabytes on something as small as a quarter.

Magnetism is the underlying force that most modern hard disk drives use to store data. Magnetic grains, typically 10 to 20 nanometers in size, are used to encode a single bit of data. These tiny magnetic grains are flipped to either north or south to represent a 1 or a 0. The memory effect, where a material retains its alignment after a greater magnetic field is removed, is called magnetic hysteresis.

The big challenge scientists have faced in developing even smaller data storage systems is that single molecules tended to not achieve magnetic hysteresis unless kept at incredibly cold temperatures. The previous temperature record for achieving magnetic hysteresis on a molecular level was -259 °C. The economics in creating a functional molecular data storage system at that temperature were never particularly practical, as it would require an expensive liquid helium cooling system.

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