IBM has recently made two discoveries in the small that will help push nanotechnology forward. The first is a report of improved ability to measure the magnetic anisotropy of an atom. This is important because it relates to a single atom’s ability to store information.
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.
The second discovery describes the ability to build switches from single molecules. IBM describes this as
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.