Heinrich predicted that devices using IBM's new method of data storage would take five to 10 years to develop, but the research is critical in that it proves previous theoretical limits to data storage do not exist.
"Using iron atoms on a copper nitrite surface is probably far from being a real technology. You don't want to build this with the tool we're using, which is a research tool," he said. "You want to build this cheaply for a mass environment, and that's a huge engineering challenge."
Antiferromagnets is not the only data storage project that IBM is working on. Last year, the company produced its first Racetrack Memory circuit, which could also lead to silicon chips with the capacity of today's hard drives, but the durability and performance of flash drives. Henrich, however, said Racetrack technology falls somewhere between today's storage mediums and IBM's most recent antiferromagnets discovery.
"In the technology world, hopefully this will gather some momentum to allow them to use antiferromagnetic structures as active elements and then solve the all the technological problems around that," Heinrich added.
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about storage in Computerworld's Storage Topic Center.