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Skyrmions are getting a little closer …

You can’t photograph a skyrmion but here you see an artist’s impression of skyrmion data storage. Credit: Moritz Eisebitt

Progress in silicon based storage continues, in spite of having reached, basically, the limits in CMOS technology (we are at 10nm and any further shrinking is facing huge technological hurdles and, more important, skyrocketing cost) by layering silicon over silicon creating 3D structures. This will keep increasing storage capacity for a while but further progress have to be searched in alternative materials.

Two years ago I posted a news on skyrmions, ghostly quantum rings that occur at the surface of atoms when they are kept at very low temperatures. These rings are quite stable and it was speculated that they could be used to store “bits”.  However keeping atoms at such extremely low temperature is complicated, and costly. Researchers at NIST, two years ago found a way to create skyrmions at ambient temperature. Still at that time there was no idea on how they could be practically used as a storage medium.

Now a research team at MIT, led by Geoffrey Beach, has published a paper reporting the discovery of a way to create skyrmions in specific locations on a metallic disc. This opens the door to actually create a storage media based on skyrmions. In turns these would allow increasing current storage density by 3 orders of magnitude (1000x).

In two years we have moved from an esoteric concept to the demonstration of its applicability. We are still far, however, from having an industrial solution. Yet, if we wait two more years… who knows.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.