IBM explores copper magnetism for the development of “atomic memory modules”

Every innovation in any field starts with basic research that lays the Foundation for future inventions. Now it becomes clear that the media in its present form will cease to exist, as happened once with floppy disks and punch cards. Some companies (e.g. Microsoft) are actively engaged in research on DNA memory, but IBM decided to go the other way and start developing drives in which storage media will be copper atoms.

According to the publication Nature Nanotechnology, IBM Research is engaged in researches in the field of copper magnetism. In General, as you know, under normal conditions, copper is not magnetic, but in the latest study, the researchers IBM’s Christopher Lutz and Kai Yang demonstrated that they can control the magnetism of the nucleus of a single atom using nuclear magnetic resonance and scanning tunneling microscope.

“We conduct fundamental research in the field of nanotechnology. This is the first time we can see the atom and move it using a scanning tunneling microscope. We have learned to control the magnetic state of the core.”

The main condition for the emergence of copper magnetism — insulation of a single atom of copper from its neighbors, which allows to make scanning tunneling microscope. As explained by Dr. Lutz,

“This is a two-step process. First, we need to align the atom to not pointed in random directions. For this we use radio waves coming from the tip of a sharp metal needle. Radio waves are tuned exactly to the natural frequency of the kernel. In the second stage, we gain access to the nucleus with the electric current from the tip.”


Schematic image of the nuclear magnetism of a single atom of copper

In addition, scientists say that copper atoms have 4 different quantum state, and this means that they can get not just “atomic memory”, but memory is a new type. For example, now such a magnetic memory MRAM (magnetoresistive RAM) retains data only through 2 States.

“Device with two States of magnetic orientation gives us a one or a zero. Here we have a cell in a hundred thousand times smaller, but with a much larger number of options. Our next steps will be to create arrays of magnetic atoms of copper. We have already begun to practice the Assembly of atoms.”

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