Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center at San Jose, California, used a process called Magnetic Anisotropy and were able to measure the magnetic orientation of a single atom. A possible result of the breakthrough is that devices the size of the iPod can pack 30,000 full-length films.
A quote from the article at the Scientific American:
"Every atom has a magnet inside," says Cyrus Hirjibehedin, a researcher at the Almaden lab, noting that the magnetic orientation of an atom is called its "spin." "We want to understand the properties of an atom and were able to measure the anisotropy for a single atom in a particular environment."
Researchers at IBM's Zürich research lab in Switzerland were also able to study the creation of molecular switches that could one day perhaps be used to create computational systems with gargantuan computational capacity. The combined results indicate a very rosy picture for processors and storage devices of the future.
More news links:
IBM's computing breakthrough promises chips the size of dust (InformationWeek)
Atomic Storage to shrink your PC? (Silicon.com)
Nano-technology has long remained in the throes of the "next-emerging" technologies. While it is true that it will take several years before the research results make it to the market as products, the future of tech indeed appears fantastic!