An image composed of over 1000 of bits of information can be stored in the atoms of a single molecule, US researchers have shown.

Bing Fung and colleagues at the University of Oklahoma found that the 19 hydrogen atoms in a lone liquid crystal molecule can store at least 1024 bits of information. The data are stored in the complex interaction of the protons’ magnetic moments.

Fung hopes the technique, dubbed “molecular photography”, could one day be used to pack massive amounts of digital information into a tiny space but admits that the process is currently experimental.