22/05/2001 Ruthenium is not a metal that normally gets tongues wagging. Atomic number 44, this silvery-grey element stops titanium from tarnishing and fountain pen nibs from folding. Until now, the high technology high spot for Ru was in cryogenic temperature sensors. But it has hidden depths -- if you can call layers just three atoms thick, depths. IBM's ever-vigilant storage scientists have found that if you put one of these layers between two layers of more conventional hard disk recording material, the amount of data you can pack goes up by orders of magnitude. If you try this at home without ruthenium -- and what else had you planned for the bank holiday? -- you'll soon find that somewhere around 30 gigabits per square inch you'll hit the superparamagnetic limit, where the magnetised areas on the disk are just too small to keep their magnetism and all that data disappears into random noise. Ruthenium has a quite remarkable ability to force magnetic domains into alignment, meaning that areas hold their information way past the old superparamagnetic limit -- up to around 100 gigabits per square inch. Or, as my pal from Monday likes to think of it, six gigabytes of movie storage in one IBM Microdrive one-inch hard disk. Here's to Ruthy.