"Footage" of individual iron atoms captured by IBMs new pulsed-scanning tunnelling microscope, could herald a new era of atomic-scale microchip design, the company says.
The scanning tunnelling microscope (STM), invented by IBM in the 1980s, can resolve images at the atomic scale. But while it is nice for stills, it is a bit slow for making a movie.
The pulsed STM, however, can resolve each new image on a nano-second timescale, the company says, meaning researchers can, by measuring how long it takes for an electrons spin to relax, actually see how long information can stay on a single iron atom.
The answer is: not very long. Current DRAM technology needs information to be refreshed every 50milliseconds or so. IBM says its pulsed STM has revealed atomic DRAM would need a refresh rate about 200,000 times faster.
But in finding this out, the company says it hopes to open new avenues of research, especially in solar cell efficiency and quantum computers.
"We now know the answer to the question, 'What happens when you try to store information on a single iron atom?'" says Andreas Heinrich, a physicist with IBM.
A good place to start? More here in the original report on EETimes.