By Will Soutter
Data storage devices employ either magnetic or electronic memory cells. The use of individual molecules as memory cells would transform the data storage landscape as molecular memories result in a thousand-fold reduction in size.
In what is touted as a significant step towards the adoption of molecular memories, scientists at Kiel University, Germany, have succeeded in utilizing electrons to switch magnetism of individual molecules off and on. This confirms the possibility of using molecules for information storage. The study is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of the “Functions by Switching” project.
Over the past few decades, scientists have used scanning tunneling microscopes to capture the image of molecules on surfaces. Techniques to control the characteristics of molecules for various applications is still in its nascent stages and this is what the team led by Professor Richard Berndt of the Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics at Kiel University is attempting to do. The ultimate aim of the project is to develop molecular machines.
The current study is being carried out by Dr. Thiruvancheril Gopakumar where a scanning tunneling microscope is used to alternate the molecules between two magnetic states. The molecules were engineered at the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry at Kiel University. The team was able to work on specific molecules amidst a densely packed layer. The next milestone in the project is to synthesize the molecules in such a way that magnetic switching can be carried out at higher temperatures by means of light source instead of electrons.