DPN nanotechnology reaches 80 nanometers, but IBM likes DNA

John Faith and Billy Harvey bring our attention to progress in Dip Pen Lithography nanotech reported at Phys.org.com:

Ever since the invention of the first scanning probe microscope in 1981, researchers have believed the powerful tool would someday be used for the nanofabrication and nanopatterning of surfaces in a molecule-by-molecule, bottom-up fashion. Despite 25 years of research in this area, the world has hit a brick wall in developing a technique with commercial potential — until now.

Northwestern University researchers have developed a 55,000-pen, two-dimensional array that allows them to simultaneously create 55,000 identical patterns drawn with tiny dots of molecular ink on substrates of gold or glass. Each structure is only a single molecule tall.

Only a single molecule tall, but 80 nanometers wide, so the “molecule-by-molecule” phrasing above is too optimistic for now.

Meanwhile over at IBM Almaden they’re looking instead (or in addition) at DNA, as reported at the DEMO conference in San Diego:

…an IBM executive touted the potential capabilities of nanotechnology in storage devices. “Nanotechnology is going to affect that in a very dramatic way,” said Gian-Luca Bona, department group manager of Science & Technology at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, in California.

One idea being considered for building devices as small as five-by-five nanometers involves the concept of using DNA-based molecular strands, Bona said. “It’s all about scaling the technology to smaller and smaller area sizes,” reducing costs and increasing performance, he said.

Research is being done on scaling down storage devices but obstacles remain in atomic-based developments, according to Bona. But devices are being sought that are faster than today’s flash or hard disk drives. “We’re talking about 1 million instructions per second that you want to retrieve information out of a device that is non-volatile,” which means it holds onto information when turned off, Bona said.

It will be great fun watching these competing nanotechnologies duke it out in computing. Or perhaps they’ll each find a niche, at least for a while. —Christine

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