continued to decrease from about 1 mm in diameter to
an average size of around .000001 mm today. As transistor size continues to shrink, it may eventually approach
the atomic level. With such extremely small transistors,
millions more of them can be densely packed within a
given area, providing greater storage capacity in a smaller
space. However, as engineers continue to miniaturize
storage devices, they are going to encounter some practical problems that involve Quantum Physics. For instance,
as magnetic memory bits are miniaturized, their magnetic
fields begin to affect each other, thereby reducing their
ability to maintain a 1 or a 0.
• Several years ago, scientists at IBM Research created
the smallest magnetic memory bit at the atomic level.
They were able to reliably store one bit of data using just
12 atoms. However, there are critical technical issues
that have to be solved to make this process practical for
everyday storage devices. The 12 atoms must be assembled using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) at
temperatures approaching absolute zero and the bits can
only hold data for several hours at a time. As scientists
continue with development, it may eventually lead to
devices with densities 100–150 times greater than typical
HDDs or SSDs.
• In a process similar to how a CD-RW is created, a
small amount of gold can be added to the surface of a silicon disk. The gold then essentially forms self-assembled
tracks 5 atoms wide with the extra silicon atoms sitting
on top of the gold tracks. This can provide a means of
data storage if each of the extra silicon atoms is arbitrarily assigned a value of 1 and the spaces between them a
value of 0. However, the scale is at the nanometer level
instead of the micrometer level. Atomic memory can thus
provide at least a million-fold increase in storage density.
Again, there are practical issues in reading and writing
that involve using an STM operating at temperatures
approaching absolute zero. Due to the exotic technology,
it may be quite a while before Nanoscale memory devices
become available for routine information storage.
This discussion will continue in a future column.
John J. Barbara owns Digital Forensics Consulting, LLC,
providing consulting services for companies and laboratories
seeking digital forensics accreditation. An ASCLD/LAB inspector since 1993, John has conducted inspections in several
forensic disciplines including Digital Evidence.
Your free subscription is just a scan away.
DFI® News gives you access to the articles,
news, and information in the print magazine,
digital editions, and e-newsletters.
Scan the barcode to sign-up for your
FREE subscription or go to dfinews.com.
Now that’s Scantastic!
Get Your Scan On!
Digital Forensic Investigator®