Light-tunable magnets would work only in the coolest computers.
© Getty Images
Light-sensitive ’plastic’ magnets could replace your hard drive.
A ’plastic’ magnet that responds to light could lead to new ways of storing and reading large amounts of computer data. Light would be used to store information in cheap, fast and high-capacity ’magneto-optic’ memories.
The light-switchable magnet is the first to be made from organic (carbon-based) molecules. This means its discoverers, Arthur Epstein of Ohio State University in Columbus and Joel Miller of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, should be able to use clever chemical tricks to fine-tune the properties of the material1.
Magnetic memories store information in tiny ’magnetized domains’, where magnetic field lines points either ’up’ or ’down’. This allows magnetic media to store the binary (zeros and ones) data of the digital world. In conventional magnetic memories, the direction of the magnetic field is switched electronically; magneto-optic systems do the switching with light, usually from lasers.
There is nothing new about magneto-optic memories. Some commercial hard-disk drives already exist that use light to read and write information stored in magnetic films. But in these systems the laser switches the magnetic medium by warming it.
Epstein and colleagues’ material contains manganese atoms mixed with small organic molecules, and becomes more magnetic when it absorbs blue light. The light alters the shape of the organic molecules, changing their magnetic properties. The researchers can reverse the effect either by shining green light on the material or by heating it above
In a future memory device, information could be encoded in the material as regions of ’stronger’ or ’weaker’ magnetism, which could be written and erased using tightly focused lasers. This could lead to information storage at very high densities.
Epstein admits that applications of this effect are still a long way off - the organic magnet needs a lot of improvement before it has the properties demanded of commercial devices.
PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world
18.05.2017 | RMIT University
Internet of things made simple: One sensor package does work of many
11.05.2017 | Carnegie Mellon University
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy