In the world of computer data storage, it’s all about making the digital bits occupy the smallest possible space. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have brought the concept to a whole new level-the nanoscale. By shining a blue laser beam onto an ultrathin film of silver oxide, a team led by Robert M. Dickson has created silver nanoclusters made up of only two to eight atoms each. Bits that small could give rise to optical discs holding thousands of gigabytes; today’s best DVDs hold less than 10 gigabytes per side. The data is read by exposing the clusters to green light, causing them to fluoresce. Each cluster can be made to glow in a range of colors-not just the “on” and “off” of binary systems-opening the possibility of storing multiple bits in the same cluster simultaneously. So far, Dickson’s group has used the fluorescent method to create nanoscale geometric images, such as the letter “L.” Development of the technique for digital data storage will require further research to reveal why the material works as it does. One unresolved question: can the film be optically erased and rewritten?
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.
AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.
Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.
Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.
What’s next for AI in 2024
Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.