Pixies: That STM will have to move very fast ;-)...agreed on IBM replacing Bell Labs as the only company worldwide that is doing fundamental research. I wonder how long this will last, I guess they see long term economical benefits...Kris
Colin, the readout circuit will be an STM operating under ultra high vacuum, that will be a huge boost to IBM's microscope business. :) That said, I think IBM has now replaced the defunct Bell Labs to be the leader in fundamental research.
You guys are absolutely right. In fact, I didn't include any calculations as to memory densities possible with a single-atom DRAM, because there is a lot more to it than just the bit cell material. But we must remember that IBM is currently just characterizing atomic-scale materials, not designing read-write mechanisms for atomic-scale bit cells. But as I've said before, characterization precedes realization, and its new pulsed-STM should facilitate the characterization of atomic-scale memory, photovoltaic and quantum-computing materials.
I agree with "selinz", this article is more about STM than memory implications. In all these futuristic discussion people seem to forget that you need to get a signal out somehow. So you build 10E15 (or 10E23 as "green_ee" asks) memory cells and then what??? Kris
Yes the long-term advantage of having nanoscale time resolution for STMs is the most important aspect of IBM's work, but their first example of its use revealed that DRAM bit cells based on a single iron atoms would have to be refreshed every 250 nanoseconds--which seems like an unreasonably short time. Nevertheless, characterization precedes realization, so this is at least a start toward single-atom bit cells for DRAM.
These are almost theoretical calculations, since even at the "ultimate" density of one bit per atom, you still have to have build support circuitry to set and read-out the bits. But now I'm remembering the clear polymer memory blocks used by the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey (film). I guess those could have held some kind of atomic lattice memory. What do you think?
IBM's recent characterization of an atomic-scale memory bit is the first step toward the realization of such atomically accurate semiconductor materials. The pulsed-STM essentially makes super slow-motion movies of semiconductor processes on the atomic scale. Check out how it works on this video at: