IBM nanotechnology: toward single-atom memory

As reported at Nanowerk and many other nanotech sites, IBM nanotechnology research is advancing toward being able to store information magnetically at the level of single atoms:

In the first report, IBM scientists describe major progress in probing a property called magnetic anisotropy in individual atoms. This fundamental measurement has important technological consequences because it determines an atom’s ability to store information. Previously, nobody had been able to measure the magnetic anisotropy of a single atom.

With further work it may be possible to build structures consisting of small clusters of atoms, or even individual atoms, that could reliably store magnetic information. Such a storage capability would enable nearly 30,000 feature length movies or the entire contents of YouTube – millions of videos estimated to be more than 1,000 trillion bits of data – to fit in a device the size of an iPod. Perhaps more importantly, the breakthrough could lead to new kinds of structures and devices that are so small they could be applied to entire new fields and disciplines beyond traditional computing.

You can read the full journal article for free, at least as of now, over at Science magazine. Free reg. req’d. Start at the abstract.

The same issue describes another nanotech breakthrough at IBM. Nanowerk explains:

In the second report, IBM researchers unveiled the first single-molecule switch that can operate flawlessly without disrupting the molecule’s outer frame — a significant step toward building computing elements at the molecular scale that are vastly smaller, faster and use less energy than today’s computer chips and memory devices.

In addition to switching within a single molecule, the researchers also demonstrated that atoms inside one molecule can be used to switch atoms in an adjacent molecule, representing a rudimentary logic element. This is made possible partly because the molecular framework is not disturbed.

So, the message to young nano researchers is: IBM is still the cool place to be, among corporate research labs. See also the coverage at —Christine

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