Ah, science! You do such interesting things. And then the media gets hold of it and turns it into something insane and unrelated. For instance, yesterday researchers at the University of Utah announced they had successfully transferred electron spin information to an atom’s nucleus, and then nearly two minutes later, read the information from that nucleus. No doubt Newsweek will be running a blurb in a few days saying that the Atomic Age of Storage is upon us, and soon we will ourselves be hard drives.
Not quite! But this is one step down a long road toward some very interesting stuff.
The researchers suspended a “phosphorus-doped” silicon wafer in a container kept at just a few degrees above absolute zero, and exposed to extremely powerful magnetic fields designed to align the spins of all the electrons. They then used focused radiation to switch the spin of some electrons, then somehow used radio waves to “write” that spin onto the atom’s nucleus.
112 seconds later, they allowed the nucleus to write that spin information back onto the electron, which could be sensed due to a change in current (I think?).
The point is, they wrote a bit of information onto a single atom, which retained that information long enough that it could be useful. The trouble, of course, as associate professor Christoph Boehme points out, “do you want a computer that has to be operated at 454 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and in a big national magnetic laboratory environment?”
Actually, that sounds awesome.
[via Reddit; images: Tom Bear Photography and C. Dane McCamey]