Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Stanford writes in world's smallest letters: Storing information in electron waves

This is an electron wave quantum hologram displaying the initials "SU" of Stanford University. The yellow area is a copper surface. The holes in the copper are molecules of carbon monoxide. Constantly moving electrons on the surface of the copper bounce off the carbon monoxide molecules in predictable ways. With their dual wave/particle properties, the electron waves in the purple area create inference patterns that can store readable information, in this case, SU. To store information, the researchers arrange the molecule in specific patterns with a scanning tunneling microscope.

Credit: Stanford University
This is an electron wave quantum hologram displaying the initials "SU" of Stanford University. The yellow area is a copper surface. The holes in the copper are molecules of carbon monoxide. Constantly moving electrons on the surface of the copper bounce off the carbon monoxide molecules in predictable ways. With their dual wave/particle properties, the electron waves in the purple area create inference patterns that can store readable information, in this case, SU. To store information, the researchers arrange the molecule in specific patterns with a scanning tunneling microscope.

Credit: Stanford University

Abstract:
Stanford researchers have reclaimed bragging rights for creating the world's smallest writing, a distinction the university first gained in 1985 and lost in 1990.

How small is the writing? The letters in the words are assembled from subatomic sized bits as small as 0.3 nanometers, or roughly one third of a billionth of a meter.

Stanford writes in world's smallest letters: Storing information in electron waves

Palo Alto, CA | Posted on January 31st, 2009

The researchers encoded the letters "S" and "U" (as in Stanford University) within the interference patterns formed by quantum electron waves on the surface of a sliver of copper. The wave patterns even project a tiny hologram of the data, which can be viewed with a powerful microscope.

"We miniaturized their size so drastically that we ended up with the smallest writing in history," said Hari Manoharan, the assistant professor of physics who directed the work of physics graduate student Chris Moon and other researchers.

The quest for small writing has played a role in the development of nanotechnology for 50 years, beginning decades before "nano" became a household word. During a now-legendary talk in 1959, the remarkable physicist Richard Feynman argued that there were no physical barriers preventing machines and circuitry from being shrunk drastically. He called his talk "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom."

Feynman offered a $1,000 prize for anyone who could find a way to rewrite a page from an ordinary book in text 25,000 times smaller than the usual size (a scale at which the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica would fit on the head of a pin). He held onto his money until 1985, when he mailed a check to Stanford grad student Tom Newman, who, working with electrical engineering Professor Fabian Pease, used electron beam lithography to engrave the opening page of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities in such small print that it could be read only with an electron microscope.

That record held until 1990, when researchers at a certain computer company famously spelled out the letters IBM by arranging 35 individual xenon atoms.

Now, in a paper published online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the Stanford researchers describe how they have created letters 40 times smaller than the original prize-winning effort and more than four times smaller than the IBM initials. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3QQJEHuefQ)

Working in a vibration-proof basement lab in the Varian Physics Building, Manoharan and Moon began their writing project with a scanning tunneling microscope, a device that not only sees objects at a very small scale but also can be used to move around individual atoms. The Stanford team used it to drag single carbon monoxide molecules into a desired pattern on a copper chip the size of a fingernail.

On the two-dimensional surface of the copper, electrons zip around, behaving as both particles and waves, bouncing off the carbon monoxide molecules the way ripples in a shallow pond might interact with stones placed in the water.

The ever-moving waves interact with the molecules and with each other to form standing "interference patterns" that vary with the placement of the molecules.

By altering the arrangement of the molecules, the researchers can create different waveforms, effectively encoding information for later retrieval. To encode and read out the data at unprecedented density, the scientists have devised a new technology, Electronic Quantum Holography.

In a traditional hologram, laser light is shined on a two-dimensional image and a ghostly 3-D object appears. In the new holography, the two-dimensional "molecular holograms" are illuminated not by laser light but by the electrons that are already in the copper in great abundance. The resulting "electronic object" can be read with the scanning tunneling microscope.

Several images can be stored in the same hologram, each created at a different electron wavelength. The researchers read them separately, like stacked pages of a book. The experience, Moon said, is roughly analogous to an optical hologram that shows one object when illuminated with red light and a different object in green light.

For Manoharan, the true significance of the work lies in storing more information in less space. "How densely can you encode information on a computer chip? The assumption has been that basically the ultimate limit is when one atom represents one bit, and then there's no more room—in other words, that it's impossible to scale down below the level of atoms.

"But in this experiment we've stored some 35 bits per electron to encode each letter. And we write the letters so small that the bits that comprise them are subatomic in size. So one bit per atom is no longer the limit for information density. There's a grand new horizon below that, in the subatomic regime. Indeed, there's even more room at the bottom than we ever imagined."

In addition to Moon and Manoharan, authors of the Nature Nanotechnology paper, "Quantum Holographic Encoding in a Two-Dimensional Electron Gas," are graduate students Laila Mattos, physics; Brian Foster, electrical engineering; and Gabriel Zeltzer, applied physics.

The research was supported by the Department of Energy through SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science (SIMES), the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation and the Stanford-IBM Center for Probing the Nanoscale.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Dan Stober

650-721-6965

Copyright © Stanford University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Video: The World's Smallest Writing

Stanford News Service story: Reading the fine print takes on a new meaning

MANOHARAN LAB

RICHARD FEYNMAN'S 1959 NANOTECHNOLOGY TALK

NATURENEWS STORY

Related News Press

News and information

Remote-control shoots laser at nano-gold to turn on cancer-killing immune cells April 20th, 2018

New qubit now works without breaks: A universal design for superconducting qubits has been created April 19th, 2018

Observing biological nanotransporters: Chemistry April 19th, 2018

Salt boosts creation of 2-D materials: Rice University scientists show how salt lowers reaction temperatures to make novel materials April 18th, 2018

Individual impurity atoms detectable in graphene April 18th, 2018

Videos/Movies

Salt boosts creation of 2-D materials: Rice University scientists show how salt lowers reaction temperatures to make novel materials April 18th, 2018

Quantum shift shows itself in coupled light and matter: Rice University scientists corral, quantify subtle movement in condensed matter system April 16th, 2018

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Remote-control shoots laser at nano-gold to turn on cancer-killing immune cells April 20th, 2018

Salt boosts creation of 2-D materials: Rice University scientists show how salt lowers reaction temperatures to make novel materials April 18th, 2018

Quantum shift shows itself in coupled light and matter: Rice University scientists corral, quantify subtle movement in condensed matter system April 16th, 2018

When superconductivity disappears in the core of a quantum tube: By replacing the electrons with ultra-cold atoms, a group of physicists has created a perfectly clean material, unveiling new states of matter at the quantum level April 16th, 2018

Academic/Education

Grand Opening of UC Irvine Materials Research Institute (IMRI) to Spotlight JEOL Center for Nanoscale Solutions: Renowned Materials Scientists to Present at the 1st International Symposium on Advanced Microscopy and Spectroscopy (ISAMS) April 18th, 2018

Lifeboat Foundation funds flying 3D-printed classroom cubesats with Perlan II April 16th, 2018

SUNY Poly’s Center for Semiconductor Research in Albany Earns World-Class TÜV SÜD AMERICA INC. ISO 9001:2015 Certification: Albany NanoTech Complex Certification Assures Top-Tier Quality in Semiconductor Test Structures; Certification a First for a SUNY Campus March 6th, 2018

Luleå University of Technology is using the Deben CT5000TEC stage to perform x-ray microtomography experiments with the ZEISS Xradia 510 Versa to understand deformation and strain inside inhomogeneous materials November 7th, 2017

Discoveries

Remote-control shoots laser at nano-gold to turn on cancer-killing immune cells April 20th, 2018

New qubit now works without breaks: A universal design for superconducting qubits has been created April 19th, 2018

Observing biological nanotransporters: Chemistry April 19th, 2018

Salt boosts creation of 2-D materials: Rice University scientists show how salt lowers reaction temperatures to make novel materials April 18th, 2018

Announcements

Remote-control shoots laser at nano-gold to turn on cancer-killing immune cells April 20th, 2018

New qubit now works without breaks: A universal design for superconducting qubits has been created April 19th, 2018

Observing biological nanotransporters: Chemistry April 19th, 2018

Salt boosts creation of 2-D materials: Rice University scientists show how salt lowers reaction temperatures to make novel materials April 18th, 2018

Grants/Sponsored Research/Awards/Scholarships/Gifts/Contests/Honors/Records

Remote-control shoots laser at nano-gold to turn on cancer-killing immune cells April 20th, 2018

Lifeboat Foundation funds flying 3D-printed classroom cubesats with Perlan II April 16th, 2018

Thermo Scientific Krios G3i Cryo-Electron Microscope Wins Gold Edison Award: Krios G3i helps scientists better understand disease mechanisms in order to accelerate cures April 12th, 2018

Bloodless revolution in diabetes monitoring: Scientists have created a non-invasive, adhesive patch, which promises the measurement of glucose levels through the skin without a finger-prick blood test April 10th, 2018

Photonics/Optics/Lasers

Doing the nano-shimmy: New device modulates light and amplifies tiny signals April 12th, 2018

Phononic SEIRA -- enhancing light-molecule interactions via crystal lattice vibrations April 10th, 2018

High-speed and on-silicon-chip graphene blackbody emitters: Integrated light emitters for optical communications April 5th, 2018

Leti Silicon Photonics Design Kit Available in Synopsis OptoDesigner Suite: Kit Contains Design Rules and Building Blocks for Multi-Project Wafers And Custom Runs on Leti’s Si310 Platform April 5th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project