IBM researchers at the company's Almaden facility have created a prototype of a magnetic storage solution that uses just 12 atoms per bit, making it 100 times more dense than current systems used in HDDs. It's unlikely to hit the consumer market any time soon though, currently the technology requires a temperature of around half a degree above absolute zero for maximum stability.
Using an unconventional form of magnetism known as 'antiferromagnetism,' the team of researchers have been able to create an experimental magnetic memory device twelve atoms in size; blowing past Moore's Law - the observation of component density doubling roughly every two years originally made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in a 1965 paper on integrated circuits - and paving the way for exascale storage systems in the future.
Unlike traditional magnetism, where nearby magnets are all polarised in the same direction, antiferromagnets alternate between north-polarisation and south-polarisation; as a result, it's possible to pack them significantly closer together than with traditional ferromagnets.
Offering a density some one hundred times greater than today's magnetic hard-drives or solid-state storage chips, IBM's breakthrough paves the way for future exascale storage systems with discs holding upwards of 200TB each.