COOL IMAGES: Atomic Legos

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Science  21 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5418, pp. 1231
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5418.1231a

They're still mostly twinkles in scientists' eyes, but atomic-scale machines are inching closer to the real world. Take this computer-generated mock-up of a molecular device for storing data. The idea is to use patterns of fluorine and hydrogen atoms on a diamond surface to store bits of data—sort of like magnetic computer tape. To read the data, you'd sweep the diamond with a carbon buckytube attached to the arm of a scanning probe microscope. The device could hold 10 million times more data by area than write-once Digital Video Disks, the latest in optical disks. The model builds on baby steps researchers have already taken, such as sticking the buckytube to a microscope tip, says Al Globus, a contractor at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Check out these Ames pages* for more molecular machine images and movies.

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