A Year Ago : Chips the size of Atoms

First published : Wed, 28 Oct 1998 15:08:10 GMT

The atom-sized computer chip has been built, claimed scientists at the Danish University of Techology, reducing the 'on-off' element of a microchip to atomic dimensions.

The Danish team reckons it has a device in which a single atom can jump back and forth to create the 'on' and 'off' states of a computer, leap-frogging technologies like that of Texas Instruments which can build transistors 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.

Team leader Francois Grey told Reuters of the experiment in which a silicon chip was covered with a layer of hydrogen atom pairs. Then a single hydrogen atom was removed from a pair using a silicon atom. The remaining hydrogen atom was left bouncing between the silicon atoms.

It is unlikely to be available in a Christmas PC for a few decades, but the University is optimistic about its development. Grey's first hopes are for storage systems that use the technique to save information, reducing today's 4Gb hard disk drives to credit-card-sized objects that can old terabytes of data.