Sunday, October 27, 2002

Smaller, damn it!

(NY Times link) IBM scientists have built and operated a computer circuit in which individual molecules of carbon monoxide move like toppling dominoes across a flat copper surface. One circuit is so small that 190 billion could fit on a standard pencil-top eraser.

"IBM said the new 'molecule cascade' technique enabled it to make logic elements 260,000 times smaller than those used in silicon-based semiconductor chips. They are also smaller than the circuits that IBM has made in the laboratory out of carbon nanotubes, which are extremely strong because of the nature of the carbon bond, and which IBM considers to be a possible alternative to silicon. The molecule cascade circuits were made by creating a pattern of carbon monoxide molecules on a copper surface. IBM moved one molecule to start a one-directional cascade of molecules, similar to the way dominoes interact. The circuits do not reset themselves."

"IBM is still years from translating the nanotechnology and quantum computing work it has done in research labs into a setting where such transistors could be manufactured and then used in products like cell phones and personal computers. 'The exciting thing is not so much that we're not there yet. The exciting thing is where we've come from,' said IBM fellow Don Eigler."

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