Atoms and the voids
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WHAT if “we can arrange the atoms the way we want; the very atoms, all the way down”? So asked the physicist Richard Feynman in an influential 1959 lecture called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”. This manipulation would mean that information, like text, could be written using atoms themselves. Feynman predicted that the entire “Encyclopædia Britannica” could be written on the head of a pin.
Three decades later, a group of scientists at IBM managed exactly that. They were able to write the firm’s name using 35 xenon atoms resting on a sheet of nickel—the first demonstration of precise atomic placement. Individual atoms, though, tend to jiggle around. They jiggle less at lower temperatures, so to keep the atoms in place, the researchers cooled them to -269ºC, just 4ºC above absolute zero, the coldest temperature physically possible. This was so costly that writing more than three letters did not make sense.
Now a team of researchers led by Sander Otte at Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, Continue reading
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