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IBM Unveils Major Nanotechnology Breakthroughs

IBM Unveils Major Nanotechnology Breakthroughs

IBM today announced two major scientific achievements in the field of nanotechnology that could one day lead to new kinds of devices and structures built from a few atoms or molecules.


News releases
Date Title
30 Aug 2007 IBM Unveils Two Major Nanotechnology Breakthroughs as Building Blocks for Atomic Structures and Devices
30 Aug 2007 IBM Marks More Than Two Decades of Nanotechnology Leadership


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    IBM's Single-Molecule Logic Switch

    Date added: 30 Aug 2007

    Schematic three-dimensional image of a molecular "logic gate" of two naphthalocyanine molecules, which are probed by the tip of the low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope. By inducing a voltage pulse through the tip to the molecule underneath the tip (shown in the back), the two hydrogen atoms in the adjacent molecule (in white at the center of the molecule in front) change position and electrically switch the entire molecule from "on" to "off". This represents a rudimentary logic-gate, an essential component of computer chips and could be the building block for computers built from molecular components.

  • IBM Nanotechnology Breakthrough

    IBM Nanotechnology Breakthrough

    Date added: 30 Aug 2007

    IBM's SINGLE-ATOM STORAGE BUILDING BLOCK: Illustration of the preferred magnetic orientation of an iron atom on a specially prepared copper surface. The ability of an atom to maintain its magnetic orientation can help determine that atom's suitability for storing data. As the atom's magnetic spin points in one direction, it can represent a "1", and in the other direction a "0", telling scientists that single-atoms may be suitable for storing the 1s and 0s known as bits, that enable information storage in computing devices. This represents a potential building block for atomic storage.

  • Single-Molecule "Logic Switch" thumbnail

    IBM Researchers Demonstrate Single-Molecule "Logic Switch" -- A Potential Building Block for Computers of the Future

    Date added: 30 Aug 2007

    Schematic top view of the switching process that involves the two hydrogen atoms located in a cavity at the center of the molecule. Upon injection of a voltage pulse, the two hydrogen atoms change position, as indicated in the left-hand-side image. The switching does not induce any changes in the molecular framework outside the central cavity.

  • IBM Researchers Demonstrate Single-Molecule "Logic Switch"

    IBM Researchers Demonstrate Single-Molecule "Logic Switch"

    Date added: 30 Aug 2007

    Actual scanning tunneling microscopy images of the naphthalocyanine molecule in the "on" and the "off" state. These images illustrate the stability and exact symmetry of the electrical behavior of the molecule between "on" and "off".

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    IBM Opens World to the Science of the Small

    Date added: 30 Aug 2007

    Nobel laureates Heinrich Rohrer (left) and Gerd Binnig (right) of IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory, shown here in 1981 with a first-generation scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Rohrer and Binnig were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986 for inventing the STM. The STM provided scientists around the world with the specialized tools they needed to explore and manipulate materials at the atomic level for the first time, leading to new kinds of devices and structures built from the "bottom" up.

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    IBM's 25 Years of Nanotech Leadership

    Date added: 30 Aug 2007

    IBM's Scanning Tunneling Microscope in 1981 revealed for the first time the reconstruction of silicon atoms at the surface, here in an image enhanced by computer processing. Some 25 years later, IBM scientists continue to break new ground with scientific milestones in atomic scale research that could be the building blocks of ultra-tiny, nanoscale structures to transform computing and to create devices nobody has even imagined yet.

Contact(s) for the Press kit

Jenny Hunter
IBM Media Relations (Americas)

Nicole Herfurth
IBM Media Relations (Europe and Middle East)
41-44 724 84 45

Harriet Ip
IBM Media Relations (Asia)
65-9821-2994 (mobile)

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This animation illustrates the flipping of the direction of a "compass needle" consisting of a single magnetic atom. The lines represent the magnetic field lines created by the tiny magnet and the arrows demonstrate the direction of the magnetization of the magnetic atom. Eventually such a magnetic nanodevice could be used to store magnetic information, here illustrated as "1" and "0." The key property that determines the stability of the magnetism of magnetic bits is called magnetic anisotropy.

An animation demonstrates the switching process in the naphthalocyanine molecule. When a voltage pulse is induced into the molecule (here indicated by the red coloring), the two hydrogen atoms positioned in the center of the molecule change position and switch the molecule between "on" and "off". Apart from changing its electrical properties, the molecule does not change in shape or position.

IBM Fellow Don Eigler gives a tour of the Scanning Tunneling Microscope lab, often called the "Kitty Hawk of nanotechnology." It was in this lab where, in 1989, Eigler was the first person ever to position individual atoms, spelling out IBM in xenon atoms. Since then, Eigler and his colleagues have continued to make breakthroughs at the nanoscale, most recently with the newfound ability to measure atomic anisotropy, a fundamental feature in determining an atom's suitability to store data.

Soundbite from IBM researcher Cyrus Hirjibehedin on exploration into using the "spin," or magnetic moment, of an atom, instead of the position of the atom, to store information

Soundbite from IBM researcher Cyrus Hirjibehedin on how the project is all about enabling the electronics and information technology industries to continue to make products that are smaller, faster, and less expensive

IBM Scanning Tunneling Microscope