Feeds

Subatomic nanoholograms smash 1-bit-per-atom barrier

What storage limit, says supersmall-me prof

High performance access to file storage

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). ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.