back to article Nanotech researchers create the world's smallest writing

Imperceptibly tiny news from the world of nano-publishing today, as a new record has been set by American scientists for exceedingly small writing. Boffins at Stanford University say they have managed to write "SU" in letters smaller than atoms. "We ended up with the smallest writing in history," says Hari Manoharan, Stanford …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. david

    That's nothing...

    I wrote the whole of the bible and shakespeare on a neutrino. But I can't remember where I put it.

  2. Havin_it

    Manoharan & Moon?

    These guys HAVE to go out and fight crime with a moniker like that.

  3. Oliver Mayes

    "We ended up with the smallest writing in history,"

    That sensation you just felt ladies and gentlemen, was every lawyer and disclaimer-writer worldwide experiencing simultaneous orgasm.

  4. David Hicks

    So all those old assumptions could be wrong...

    Like when you can have an address for every atom in the universe, then you've got enough IP/RAM/HDD addressing space".

    Now it seems we may need more...


  5. NickR

    One problem..

    Have you seen the size of a scanning tunnelling microscope required to view / retrieve the information, I doubt it would even fit in a standard crate :(

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Nearly there

    Soon we'll able to put some useful data in Paris's head

  7. Anonymous Coward

    I'm worried

    Is nobody else at all concerned that the first thing written with this super-duper new technology was SU?

    It's not even in use and their trying to crack into systems using it by implementing the switch user command directly into the storage medium???

    From the sounds of it though, they can store information in a subatomic space by manipulating the space around it: that's like saying that I can park my car in a 2ft x 3ft parking space, providing I have the entire car park to myself.

    Don't get me wrong, it's a great advancement, it's just not as useful as they claim at the moment.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why Su?

    Watched the vid, turns out it's not the name of someone's special friend, just Stanford University's initials.


  9. xjy
    Paris Hilton

    Jesus Joseph & Mary...

    This means Paris will be able to take in the whole bleeding universe at once... Black holes are no longer the most gobsmacking phenomena around.

    (Paris, cos... well, nuff said...)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @David Hicks

    If you thought 18 years to reach the next level in teeny tiny writing was a long time, just wait to see how long it takes to invent and deploy IPv8 (assume v7 will be skipped to confuse people).

  11. David

    Does *anyone* know their scales?

    Smaller than an atom?

    0.3 nanometers?

    When atoms are classically measured in fractions of an Angstrom?

    So, not only full of bull and shamelessly milking the nanowagon for dollar, but innumerate, too? That's the kind of researchers we want :-)

  12. TeeCee Gold badge

    Now look to the right a bit.

    I'll bet that on the subatomic particle adjacent to the one where they wrote "su" it says "Permission denied"......

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Article seems to contradict itself

    I am puzzled by this article. The information appears to be is stored in the arrangement of the C02 molecules not electrons. I think the electrons are the means of retrieving the information given the size of one co2 molecule is probably at least 0.3 nm this appears to simply be the unremarkable observation that electron interference patterns can be sub atomic in size.

    It would be nice if there was a link to a paper or sonmething so we could see if this ws anything more than self publicity.

  14. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Ms Fnd in a Lbry

    Notched Quanta. That's what we need, notched quanta.

  15. Simon

    Dirty images?

    If I used this method to draw dirty cartoon images could I get arrested for it as well?

    Hankies and electron microscope in pocket, ouch, my back and other things are sore.

  16. Secretgeek


    Never mind crate, can you imagine the size of the HP box required to ship a HDD with a scanning tunnelling microscope as the read/write head?

    All the cardboard in the universe required to ship one HDD capable of storing all the info in the galaxy?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Ponder Stebbins

    I volunteer to inject some genetic data in there.

  18. Luther Blissett

    In infinitessimal space no one can see you swear

    Was there really no space for an X, if not for X to IBM?

  19. hotaru

    "the smallest writing in history"?

    certainly not:

  20. Filippo Silver badge


    Are they attempting to crack God's computer?

  21. Jack

    @AC 12.44

    "From the sounds of it though, they can store information in a subatomic space by manipulating the space around it: that's like saying that I can park my car in a 2ft x 3ft parking space, providing I have the entire car park to myself."

    Yes, except that in the same space they can store multiple bits by varying the electron wavelength. Which is more like saying, "I can stack 50 cars in a 2ftx3ft parking space, providing I have the entire car park to myself". (50 being a number i randomly picked from the clear blue as a smallish car-park). Whilst you still need the large amount of space, you can store more information like this than you would have done if you had used all of the space for lining up atoms.

    @ whoever said 0.3nm is not subatomic, agreed, partially, it's 3 Angstroms, which isn't smaller than say, a helium atom, but is probably smaller than most atoms. Although you should never classically measure atoms, Heisenberg and all....

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Fast and bulbous

    I'm sure that "Quantum Holographic Encoding in a Two-Dimensional Electron Gas" was a Captain Beefheart album track from later in his career, circa Doc at the Radar Station etc. Or was it a nine-minute, mid-70s Frank Zappa guitar improvisation?

  23. shane fitzgerald



  24. William Wallace

    How Certain Is This?

    Given that quantum mechanics just gives probabilities ... is anyone certain this paper was written and published?

  25. Mike Kamermans

    For those who want to read the original article

    The full article can be read (for free) at

    The short of it: the simultaneous encoding of the letters S and U requires an area a bit under 12.5 x 12.5 25 square nm. The letter S is encoded in 8 bits, so we'll assume the U is a comparable number.

    This means that using an encoding region of 157.5 square nanometer, the average bit density for this region is 157.5/8 = 1 bit per 19.7 square nanometer. However, two letters were simultaneously encoded, so the virtual bit density for this area is actually 157.5/16 = 1 bit per 9.8 square nanometer.

    In order to get to a virtual bit density of one bit per 0.3 square nanometer, at least 32 holographic layers per encoding area would be required. To justify the article's claim that they can "achieve information densities in excess of 20 bits [per square] nm", close to 200 holographic layers would be required.

    The problem is the article, indeed, only looks at its readout area: a region measuring a mere 2.9 by 4.3 nanometer, which is then falsely considered the encoding region, measuring only 12.5 square nanometer. This introduces an order of magnitude worth of error in the numbers (getting from there to an encoding density of 1 bit per 0.8 square nanometer, and pushing that down to 0.3 with three or four more holographic layers is trivial, but also highly incorrect math).

  26. David Given
    Thumb Up

    Font size

    0.3nm is approxiately 0.0000009 point. Annoyingly, OpenOffice only goes down to 2 point.

  27. NickR

    OS X 30.4

    Now with Subatomic nanoholographic font smoothing.

  28. Steve

    Atoms have three dimensions

    Are they taking the substrate into account in the "smaller than an atom" measurement? I'm guessing they needed something a hell of a lot thicker than one atomic layer in order to hold the CO atoms in place. </pedant>

    Still, it is pretty cool.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @ponder Stebbins

    "Soon we'll able to put some useful data in Paris's head"

    I tried, but she just swallowed the whole bit.

  30. Jan Wysocki Silver badge

    @Neil Barnes

    I'll raise you - a nudged quantum.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC:2nd February 2009 12:44

    Not really... it's like saying you can park multiple cars in that same 2ft x 3ft space as long as they're different colours. Many, many cars.

  32. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Cars, car parks...

    The whole point about holographic anything is that the ability to retrieve the information depends on the relative positions of everything, including your measurement aparatus. It is therefore *not* unreasonable to include the size and complexity of the STM in the density computation. The information simply isn't *solely within* the microscope recording medium.

    And as for the many coloured cars idea, I think you'll find that very similar colours require very high fidelity equipment to distinguish them. TANSTAAFL.

  33. Walking Turtle
    Paris Hilton

    Free Will is clearly...

    ...but a mere single quantum level removed from this remarkable NeusTech. From here where I sit, one can for all intents and purposes plainly see (for lo and behold, I have made mese'f very small today) exactly as many holy angels as *want* to do so, just a-dancin' on the head of that hospitable host pin's head.

    Lovely sight; lovely song too. (Full quad stereo and then some). Most excellent company indeed, all in all. Tea?

    Tiny Dancer Paris. Of course, she isn't really /that/ small. But I rather expect Her Angelick Divinity dances right lovely anyway, even while holding the very pincushion of recent connoted reference ever so lightly, brightly and with full evanescent beauty in her tiny lovely rhythmically undulating hand. (Aahh-h-h. Nice.)

    So what do angels dancing on the head of a pin actually wear? Try a spot of this very nice tea, and see!

  34. Mark Eaton-Park

    "welcome to Jamaica and have a nice day"

    Finally the Europeans have have that tattoo they always wanted

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like