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One-Billion-Year Carbon Nanotube Memory

A new approach to really long-lived electronic storage

3 min read
One-Billion-Year Carbon Nanotube Memory

5 June 2009—A team of physicists led by Alex Zettl of the University of California, Berkeley, has created a carbon nanotube–based electromechanical memory device that they say can store bits safely for up to a billion years. Details of the advance, which is being acknowledged by independent experts as a breakthrough, will be reported in the 10 June issue of the journal Nano Letters .

Zettl and his colleagues constructed their memory device by taking an iron nanocrystal and placing it inside a hollow carbon nanotube. The iron particle is able to shuttle back and forth along the hollow cylinder, which provides a mechanism to create the 1 and 0 states required for digital bits. Electrodes are attached to the ends of the carbon nanotube, and the movement of the iron particle is controlled through the application of an electrical current. Writing information into the new memory cell is relatively easy, says Zettl. ”The real challenge was figuring out how to read out the device,” he says.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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