IBM Stores Information On A Single Molecule
IBM scientists have demonstrated a technique that would allow information storage on individual molecules. IBM has also shown that an individual molecule could serve as a switch that could potentially replace the transistor.
These two elements would, in theory, make it possible to construct working computers the size of invisibly small specks of dust.
Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in California developed a technique for measuring magnetic anisotropy, a property of the magnetic field that gives it the ability to maintain a particular direction. Being able to measure magnetic anisotropy at the atomic level is a crucial step toward the magnet representing the ones or the zeroes used to store data in binary computer language.
In a second report, researchers at IBM's lab in Zurich, Switzerland, said they had used an individual molecule as an electric switch that could potentially replace the transistors used in modern chips. The company published both research reports in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
It would take at least ten years for this research to translate into usable devices.
Science fiction writers are under no such constraints. The first time I ever heard of this idea was in Robert Heinlein's 1951 novel Between Planets.
"It is theoretically possible to have a matrix in which each individual molecule has a meaning - as they do in the memory cells of your brain. If we had such subtlety, we could wrap your Encyclopedia Britannica into the head of a pin - it would be the head of that pin..."
(Read more about Heinlein's molecule matrix)
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