September 18/25, 2002   

   Molecule chip demoed
The road to microscopic robots, pinhead-size supercomputers, and machines that self-assemble passes through the more mundane territory of higher-capacity memory chips. Nanotechnology research has reached a milestone with an HP Labs' prototype -- a 64-bit molecular memory device that fits in an area less than a thousandth of a millimeter on a side.
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Diamond electronics on deck
Diamond more pure than any engagement rock -- if the stuff were readily available -- would make for better computer chips than your average semiconductor. A research team in Europe has found a way to make diamond pure enough to conduct electricity. The next step is making diamond components, which promise to withstand harsher environments and to provide faster wireless communications than today's less dazzling semiconductors.

Huge lasers could spark fusion
Fusion, the reaction that powers the sun, promises limitless, clean energy. Controlling fusion on earth, however, means figuring out how to generate the tremendous pressure and heat needed to get fusion going, and controlling fuel heated to one hundred million degrees Celsius. A new generation of ultra-powerful lasers shows promise.

Diamonds improve quantum crypto
The merest gleam from a microscopic, imperfect diamond may be the key to keeping secrets perfectly secure. A prototype quantum cryptography system shows that diamond nanocrystals are better than the usual weak lasers at spitting out just one photon at a time.

Software agents ask for help
A team of software agents is learning to keep virtual traffic flowing more smoothly without having to reinvent the wheel. The key is getting less successful agents to seek advice from better ones. This cooperative learning strategy could eventually speed Internet routing, and help robots work together.

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