One Very, Very Small Step for Nanotechnology

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Break computing down to its basics and there's a circuit that can be switched on or off, representing the zeroes and ones of digitized data. In today's issue of Science magazine, IBM researchers report that they've managed to shrink those circuits down to the atomic level, a triumph of nanotechnology that could result in a hundredfold increase in disk drive capacity. Just when you were getting used to your 10-gigabyte hard disk, now we're talking one terabyte.

The key is the discovery of a set of chemical reactions using iron and platinum that can tame magnetic particles so minute that they are measured in terms of atoms. These kinds of chemical reactions are thought necessary to facilitate the mass fabrication of such precise materials. The breakthrough also nuzzles closer to a theoretical limitation in the field of magnetics, a physical point at which magnetic particles are too small and dense to hold a charge.