Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost all forms of media, phase transition is used for storage.
For the creation of CD, for example, a very thin sheet of metal within the plastic is used that melts within microseconds and then solidifies again. Enabling this on the level of atoms or molecules is the subject of a research project led by researchers at the University of Basel.
Changing the phase of individual atoms for data storage
In principle, a phase change on the level of individual atoms or molecules can be used to store data; storage devices of this kind already exist in research. However, they are very labor-intensive and expensive to manufacture.
The group led by Professor Thomas Jung at the University of Basel is working to produce such tiny storage units consisting of only a few atoms using the process of self-organization, thereby enormously simplifying the production process.
To this end, the group first produced an organometallic network that looks like a sieve with precisely defined holes. When the right connections and conditions are chosen, the molecules arrange themselves independently into a regular supramolecular structure.
Xenon atoms: sometimes solid, sometimes liquid
The physicist Aisha Ahsan, lead author of the current study, has now added individual Xenon gas atoms to the holes, which are only a bit more than one nanometer in size. By using temperature changes and locally applied electrical pulses, she succeeded in purposefully switching the physical state of the Xenon atoms between solid and liquid.
She was able to cause this phase change in all holes at the same time by temperature. The temperatures for the phase transition depend on the stability of the Xenon clusters, which varies based on the number of Xenon atoms. With the microscope sensor she has induced the phase change also locally ,for an individual Xenon containing pore.
As these experiments have to be conducted at extremely low temperatures of just a few Kelvin (below -260°C), Xenon atoms themselves cannot be used to create new data storage devices. The experiments have proven, however, that supramolecular networks are suited in principle for the production of tiny structures, in which phase changes can be induced with just a few atoms or molecules.
“We will now test larger molecules as well as short-chain alcohols. These change state at higher temperatures, which means that it may be possible to make use of them,” said Professor Thomas Jung, who supervised the work.
Graphic animation of a potential data storage device on the atomic scale: a data storage element – made of only six Xenon atoms – is liquefied using a voltage pulse.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Jung, University of Basel, Department of Physics, +41 61 207 39 11 and
Laboratory for Mikro- and Nanotechnology, Paul Scherrer Institute, +41 56 310 45 18
Phase transitions in confinements: Controlling solid to Fluid transitions of xenon atoms in an on-surface network
Aisha Ahsan, S. Fatemeh Mousavi, Thomas Nijs, Sylwia Nowakowska, Olha Popova, Aneliia Wäckerlin, Jonas Björk, Lutz H. Gade, Thomas A. Jung
small (2018), doi: doi.wiley.com/10.1002/smll.201803169
Iris Mickein | Universität Basel
Tel Aviv University-led team discovers new way supermassive black holes are 'fed'
15.01.2019 | American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Arbitrary quantum channel simulation for a superconducting qubit
14.01.2019 | Science China Press
Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.
It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:
The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.
One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...
Just in time for Christmas, a Mars-analogue mission in Morocco, coordinated by the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) as part of the SRC project FACILITATORS, has been successfully completed. SRC, the Strategic Research Cluster on Space Robotics Technologies, is a program of the European Union to support research and development in space technologies. From mid-November to mid-December 2018, a team of more than 30 scientists from 11 countries tested technologies for future exploration of Mars and Moon in the desert of the Maghreb state.
Close to the border with Algeria, the Erfoud region in Morocco – known to tourists for its impressive sand dunes – offered ideal conditions for the four-week...
Research opens doors in photonic quantum information processing, optical signal processing and microwave photonics
Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new integrated photonics platform that can...
A team of experimentalists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and theoreticians at University of Alabama Birmingham discovered a remarkably long-lived new state of matter in an iron pnictide superconductor, which reveals a laser-induced formation of collective behaviors that compete with superconductivity.
"Superconductivity is a strange state of matter, in which the pairing of electrons makes them move faster," said Jigang Wang, Ames Laboratory physicist and...
14.01.2019 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
15.01.2019 | Life Sciences
15.01.2019 | Information Technology
15.01.2019 | Materials Sciences