February 5/12, 2007


Molecular memory advances

A prototype 160-kilobit memory chip made from nanowires and single layers of molecules has cells 1/40th the size of today's memory chip cells. The prototype shows that hybrid nanoelectronic-molecular electronic computer circuits have the potential to replace today's silicon chip technology when it reaches the end of the line in a decade or two. (A 160-Kilobit Molecular Electronic Memory Patterned at 1011 Bits per Square Centimetre, Nature, January 25, 2007)

Carbon nano drum

A prototype nanoscale resonator made from a sheet of carbon atoms suspended over a silicon oxide trench tests the limits of the thinness of nanomechanical devices. Such resonators, which vibrate millions of times a second, could be used to make sensitive chemical sensors and tiny communications devices. (Electromechanical Resonators from Graphene Sheets, Science, January 26, 2007)

Biochip watches genes in action

A biochip performs hundreds of gene expression experiments at once in living cells. Tracking gene expression, ordinarily a time-consuming process, is important in developing drugs, diagnosing diseases and studying biology. (A High-Throughput Microfluidic Real-time Gene Expression Living Cell Array, Lab on a Chip, January 2007)

Biochip cranks out DNA

A biochip capable of withstanding harsh chemicals produces artificial DNA strands from tiny amounts of liquid. This DNA microfactory could be used to produce strands for RNA screening, DNA nanotechnology and DNA computing. (Solvent Resistant Microfluidic DNA Synthesizer, Lab on a Chip, January 2007)

Stiffer hydrogel

A moisture-triggered hydrogel that contains silicon nanorods is firmer than traditional hydrogels and can be patterned at the microscopic level. Such reinforced hydrogels could be used to make relatively sturdy adaptive materials, for example biochips that reconfigure themselves in response to changes in moisture, light or pH level. (Reversible Switching of Hydrogel-Actuated Nanostructures into Complex Micropatterns, Science, January 26, 2007)

Sniffing info on the wind

A search algorithm tracks down information when clues are patchy and there's no easy-to-follow trail. The algorithm, which is similar to the way birds and insects sample air to home in on food and mates, could be used for odor-sniffing robots. ('Infotaxis' As a Strategy for Searching without Gradients, Nature, January 25, 2007)


View from the High Ground: ICL's John Pendry
Physics as machine tool, negative refractive index, metamaterials, shattered wine glasses, higher capacity DVDs, scientific backwaters, risk perception and practice, practice, practice.

How It Works: Quantum computing: qubits
Photons, electrons and atoms, oh my! These particles are the raw materials for qubits, the basic building blocks of quantum computers.

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"Physics is to the rest of science what machine tools are to engineering. A corollary is that science places power in our hands which can be used for good or ill. Technology has been abused in this way throughout the ages from gunpowder to atomic bombs."
- John Pendry, Imperial College London

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