Shown are cobalt nanoparticles that have self-assembled into bracelet-like "nanorings." The rings’ magnetic flux can be oriented in one of two directions – clockwise or counterclockwise – a characteristic that could represent binary numbers in magnetic memory devices. Because the flux direction remains even without a constant power supply, it is possible these rings could lead to so-called "non-volatile" computer memory, which would not be wiped out in the event of a system failure. (Graphic/VCH Publishers)
Recent nanotechnology research at Purdue University could pave the way toward faster computer memories and higher density magnetic data storage, all with an affordable price tag.
Just like the electronics industry, the data storage industry is on the move toward nanoscale. By shrinking components to below 1/10,000th the width of a human hair, manufacturers could make faster computer chips with more firepower per square inch. However, the technology for making devices in that size range is still being developed, and the smaller the components get, the more expensive they are to produce.
Purdue chemist Alexander Wei may have come up with a surprisingly simple and cheap solution to the shrinking data storage problem. Wei’s research team has found a way to create tiny magnetic rings from particles made of cobalt. The rings are much less than 100 nanometers across – an important threshold for the size-conscious computer industry – and can store magnetic information at room temperature. Best of all, these "nanorings" form all on their own, a process commonly known as self-assembly.
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