NANO: Nanoscale abacus

Max More (
Mon, 25 Nov 1996 15:02:45 -0700 (MST)

>Date: Fri, 15 Nov 1996 14:27:21 -0700 (MST)
>The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
>Number 294 November 6, 1996 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben
>NANOSCALE ABACUS. Scientists at IBM Zurich have used a
>scanning tunneling microscope (STM) probe to reposition C-60
>molecules on a copper substrate, making in effect the first room-
>temperature device capable of storing and manipulating numbers
>at the single molecule level. The buckyballs (which are big,
>sturdy molecules) act as the counters of a tiny abacus in which
>low (indeed mono-atomic) terraces in the copper surface
>constrain the buckyballs to move accurately in a straight line.
>(The abacus is perhaps the first human calculating device, and the
>Greek word means "sand on a board.") IBM researcher James
>Gimzewski ( admits that his device is
>slow: "The tool we use (the STM probe) is the equivalent of
>operating a normal abacus with the Eiffel Tower." But things
>should improve in coming years; with this new advance,
>hundreds of buckyball ranks could fit neatly inside the same
>linewidth that characterizes features on a Pentium processor chip.
>As for speed, engineers expect to fabricate arrays of hundreds
>and even thousands of STM probes for simultaneously imaging
>(and repositioning) many atoms and molecules. (M.T. Cuberes
>et al., to appear in the 11 November issue of Applied Physics
>Letters; an associated figure can be obtained on the Web at
Max More, Ph.D.
President, Extropy Institute, Editor, Extropy,
(310) 398-0375