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
Double layer of graphene helps to control spin currents
18.10.2019 | University of Groningen
Analysis of Galileo's Jupiter entry probe reveals gaps in heat shield modeling
17.10.2019 | American Institute of Physics
A very special kind of light is emitted by tungsten diselenide layers. The reason for this has been unclear. Now an explanation has been found at TU Wien (Vienna)
It is an exotic phenomenon that nobody was able to explain for years: when energy is supplied to a thin layer of the material tungsten diselenide, it begins to...
Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.
The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...
Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.
Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...
A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.
The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...
Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...
02.10.2019 | Event News
02.10.2019 | Event News
19.09.2019 | Event News
18.10.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.10.2019 | Medical Engineering
18.10.2019 | Physics and Astronomy