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A Nanometer-Scale Etch A Sketch

Scientists use a microscope to write and erase nanowires

3 min read

6 March 2008—Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh say they have found a way to draw and erase tiny nanometer-wide dots and lines that can conduct electricity. The physicists hope that the discovery will lead to a way to draw nanowires to connect devices on a circuit and to change a circuit’s logic by simply redrawing the devices. The technique could also lead to new types of logic devices and ultrahigh-density data storage components, say the scientists.

The process works like a nanoscale Etch A Sketch. The lines are drawn on an insulating surface by dragging the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM), a device that can see individual atoms by dragging a supersharp tip across them. For their drawing surface, University of Pittsburgh physicist Jeremy Levy and his colleagues chose a 1.2-nanometer layer of lanthanum aluminum oxide deposited on top of strontium titanium oxide. The interface between the two oxides is normally insulating, but a positive voltage from the sharp metal microscope tip creates a conductive spot underneath the tip at the materials’ interface.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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