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Diamonds could be data gold mine
By Devin Powell
Could be that diamonds are a geek’s best
Scientists have developed a new way to
manipulate atoms inside diamond crystals so that they store information long
enough to function as quantum memory.
Quantum information is encoded not as
the 0s and 1s crunched by conventional
computers but in states that are both 0
and 1 at the same time. Physicists use
such quantum data to send information
securely, and hope to eventually build
quantum computers that solve problems
beyond the reach of today’s technology.
For quantum memory, flawless
diamonds — composed of pure carbon
crystals — won’t do.
“We want to build in defects,” David
Awschalom of the University of Califor-
nia, Santa Barbara said March 22.
By Devin Powell
Inspired by the Nobel Prize–winning
carbon material graphene, physicists are
now investigating atom-thick sheets of
carbon’s big brother, silicon.
Silicon shares many properties with
carbon, which sits just above it on the
periodic table. In 2007 Lok Lew Yan
Voon and then–graduate student Gian
Guzmán-Verri of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, proposed that silicon
could form flat sheets similar to graphene.
The team coined the new term for this
“Silicon has the advantage of being
more integratable in today’s electronics,” said physicist Antoine Fleurence of
the Japan Advanced Institute of Science
and Technology in Ishikawa.
Speaking March 24, Fleurence
described a new silicene recipe. He
and his colleagues grew a thin layer
of silicon on top of the ceramic material zirconium diboride. X-rays shined
on this thin layer of silicon revealed a
honeycomb of hexagons similar to the
structure of graphene.
This structure looks familiar to Guy
Le Lay, a physicist at the University of
Provence in Marseille, France. Last year,
he created the first-ever silicene ribbons.
Le Lay described these 1.6-nanometer-
wide stripes of honeycombed atoms,
grown on top of silver, in the May 3
Applied Physics Letters.
New data from Le Lay’s group, also
presented March 25, suggest that sili-
cene and graphene share not only a
similar structure, but possibly similar
electronic properties. To prove silicene’s
worth, though, Le Lay will need to grow
it not on electrically conductive silver
but on an insulating material that won’t
interfere with the movement of elec-
trons. Fleurence’s ceramic material also
conducts electricity and so does not solve