Intelligent Machines

Nano Storage

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?

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

You've read of free articles this month.