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.

Run time: 3.16 mins

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