University of Utah physicists have stored information for 112 seconds in atomic nuclei and then been able to read it back.
By coding data in the magnetic 'spins' in atomic nuclei, the team says it's made what could be the world's tiniest computer memory, and a big step towards quantum computing.
"The length of spin memory we observed is more than adequate to create memories for computers,” says Christoph Boehme, an associate professor of physics. "It’s a completely new way of storing and reading information."
However, some big technical hurdles remain: the nuclear spin storage-and-read-out apparatus works only at 3.2 degrees Kelvin, or slightly above absolute zero. The apparatus must also be surrounded by powerful magnetic fields roughly 200,000 times stronger than Earth’s.
"Yes, you could immediately build a memory chip this way, but do you want a computer that has to be operated at 454 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and in a big national magnetic laboratory environment?" Boehme says.
"First we want to learn how to do it at higher temperatures, which are more practical for a device, and without these strong magnetic fields to align the spins."
Two years ago, another group of scientists reported storing so-called quantum data for two seconds within atomic nuclei - but didn't read it electronically, as Boehme and colleagues have done.