Saturday, November 21, 2009

40th birthday of the mouse

One computer device could be called as being most in touch with humans, the mouse, which celebrated its 40th birthday on December 1, 2008. The first computer mouse was a little wooden box with a single red button on top and a wire hanging from the back, because of which it was likened to a rodent. And while computers have transformed from big white boxes to cool flat screens and laptops, the mouse has stayed the same. Its designer, Douglas Engelbart, is not a rich man as he never got any royalties because the patent expired before the mouse became a must have.


Scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University, along with collaborators at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, and Naval Research Laboratory in the US, have discovered a 'magnetic superatom' which could shrink the size of many electronic devices like computers, make them faster and pack more storage space.

The magnetic superatom—a stable cluster of atoms that can mimic different elements of the periodic table—may also have potential biomedical applications such as sensing, imaging and drug delivery.

The newly discovered cluster, consisting of one vanadium and eight cesium atoms, acts like a tiny magnet that can mimic a single manganese atom in magnetic strength, while preferentially allowing electrons of specific spin orientation to flow through the surrounding shell of cesium atoms.

The researchers believe that the superatom can have significant impact in the area of molecular electronics and spintronics in which attempts are made to use conducting properties of small molecules to design electronic devices.

The researchers have proposed that by combining gold and manganese, one can make other superatoms that have magnetic moment but will not conduct electricity. These superatoms may have potential application in healthcare.