The new device grows out of a method known as near-field scanning optical microscopy
(NSOM), which is widely used for imaging.
Near-field scanning optical microscopy
(NSOM) is an interesting technique that surmounts one of the limitations of ordinary light microscopy: the diffraction limit.
More recently, Bell Labs researchers used this near-field scanning optical microscopy
method to demonstrate a revolutionary new magneto-optic data storage technique that offers data densities of 45 billion bits per square inch -- a nearly 100-fold increase over today's best commercial magneto-optic methods.
Using a near-field scanning optical microscopy
technique developed at Bell Labs, the system currently can write and image bits with dimensions as small as 60 nanometers (60 billionths of a meter or about 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair).