Next Step Towards Building Molecular Device
Science magazine recently published a report on a nanoscience breakthrough by
scientists of IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory in collaboation with colleagues
at the University of Regensburg, Germany and the University of Utrecht, Netherlands.
The scientists were the first to measure directly the charge state of individual
gold and silver atoms using an atomic force microscope (AFM). Measuring the
minute differences in force exerted by these differently charged atoms with
a sensitivity of a single electron-charge, they were able to distinguish between
neutral, negatively or positively charged atoms. In fact, the measurement accuracy
was better than 1 piconewton--which is equal to the gravitational force that
two adults exert on each other over a distance of more than half a kilometer.
This achievement presents a milestone in nanoscale science and opens up new
possibilities in the exploration of structures and devices at the ultimate atomic
and molecular limits-of, for example, computing elements that could be vastly
smaller, faster and more energy-efficient than today's processors and memory
devices. It also holds potential to impact areas such as photovoltaics or catalysis.
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