IBM Gets Small

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that most of you missed two recent articles in the latest edition of Science: "Large Magnetic Anisotropy of a Single Atomic Spin Embedded in a Surface Molecular Network," and "Current-Induced Hydrogen Tautomerization and Conductance Switching of Naphthalocyanine Molecules."

If you flipped past these page-turners, you missed out. The exciting science hidden behind their daunting titles could have big ramifications for long-term IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) investors.

In the first article, IBM scientists describe their progress in the field of magnetic anisotropy. Anisotropy is a vital property in data storage, because it determines whether a magnet can maintain a specific orientation. In other words, it allows the magnet to represent either a "0" or a "1" -- the basis for storing data in a computer.

Here, IBM successfully measured the magnetic anisotropy of an individual atom, suggesting that future data storage devices could use such atoms to store information. That, in turn, could allow a device the size of an iPod to hold the equivalent of 30,000 feature-length movies.

At a minimum, it's a disruptive technology, and it could pose a significant threat to other data-storage companies such as Seagate (NYSE: STX  ) and SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK  ) . In a larger sense, this kind of data storage will likely open up a host of new products, which could generate a substantial amount of new business for IBM.

The second article discusses how IBM researchers coaxed a single molecule to act as a switch on a computer circuit. This might allow next-generation computer circuits to be made in ever-smaller sizes.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) , and others are all racing to develop chips at the 45- and 32-nanometer level. IBM's latest advance could let the company potentially leapfrog the competition and begin constructing circuits as small as five nanometers.

Neither of these developments will lead to new products right away, but they do indicate that Big Blue is making an extraordinary amount of progress in the field of nanotechnology -- yet another reason why I consider IBM the best blue-chip company.

Interested in reading more about IBM? Check out these articles:

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