Feeds

Subatomic nanoholograms smash 1-bit-per-atom barrier

What storage limit, says supersmall-me prof

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Imperceptibly tiny news from the world of nano-publishing today, as a new record has been set by American scientists for exceedingly small writing. Boffins at Stanford University say they have managed to write "SU" in letters smaller than atoms.

"We ended up with the smallest writing in history," says Hari Manoharan, Stanford assistant prof.

Stanford concept graphic indicating quantum electron interference holograms

The smallening

The letters were written by using a scanning tunnelling microscope in a vibration-proof basement lab to arrange carbon monoxide molecules on a copper sheet. This produced a sort of pinball table for electrons, in which they bounce about - occasionally flip-flopping between particle and wave form in typical capricious subatomic style. This produces standing interference patterns which can be varied by changing the design of the molecular carbon monoxide bumpers on the copper pinball layout.

According to the Stanford boffins, these electron patterns can act as holograms, storing information. Even better, a given layout can actually store many holograms, each to be read at a different electron wavelength. Manoharan and his nanohologram collaborator Chris Moon say it's difficult to properly express the size of their stacked S and U, but the equivalent would be 0.3 nanometres. This is sufficiently small that you could copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the head of a pin not just once, but thousands of times over.

That has apparently snatched back the smallest-writing record for Stanford, which it lost to a group of IBM boffins who wrote their corporate initials in xenon atoms back in 1990. But huge clumsy xenon atoms are old hat, now - it's all about the new electron pinball nanohologram hotness. Manoharan and Moon believe that this science has broken down the barriers of information storage.

"In this experiment we've stored some 35 bits per electron to encode each letter," says the prof, "and we write the letters so small that the bits that comprise them are subatomic in size. So one bit per atom is no longer the limit for information density. There's a grand new horizon below that, in the subatomic regime. Indeed, there's even more room at the bottom than we ever imagined."

There's a layman's-level vid on YouTube, here, for those who'd like to know more and have vid-friendly networks:

Or for those who take their hard sums straight and have a subscription to Nature Nanotechnology, Manoharan, Moon and their co-authors have published a paper titled Quantum Holographic Encoding in a Two-Dimensional Electron Gas here (doi:10.1038/news.2009.54). ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.