Data Storage at the Single Molecule Level
Science & Technology

Kiel Physicists Store Data on a Single Molecule

The pictures from the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) present the three totally different states of the molecule, which correspond to a trinary code for encrypting info: in a extremely magnetic state (left), in a low magnetic state with atoms which have moved nearer collectively (center) and in an equally low magnetic state however turned by 45 levels (proper). Determine/Copyright: Manuel Gruber

Over the previous few years, the constructing blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. However additional miniaturization of the present know-how is hindered by basic limits of quantum mechanics. A brand new strategy consists in utilizing so-called spin-crossover molecules because the smallest attainable storage unit. Much like regular laborious drives, these particular molecules can save info by way of their magnetic state. To take action, they need to be positioned on surfaces, which is difficult with out damaging their potential to save lots of the knowledge. A analysis group from Kiel College has no longer solely managed to efficiently place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a floor, however they’ve additionally used interactions which had been beforehand considered obstructive to enhance the molecule’s storage capability. The storage density of standard laborious drives might due to this fact theoretically be elevated by multiple hundred fold, and knowledge carriers may very well be made considerably smaller. The scientists have printed their findings within the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Is a swap on or off? Is a assertion true or false? Is a solution sure or no? The differentiation between two prospects is the smallest piece of knowledge that a laptop can save. Bits (a phrase comprised of ‘binary’ and ‘digit’), because the smallest digital storage unit, are the essential constructing blocks for all info saved on our laborious drives. They’re introduced as a sequence of two totally different symbols like 0 and 1, the so-called binary code. Over the previous few years, storage media have turn into ever smaller whereas their capability to retailer info has elevated. One Bit on a laborious drive now solely requires a house of round 10 by 10 nanometers. That is nonetheless too huge for miniaturising elements, nevertheless.

“The know-how that’s at present getting used to retailer knowledge on laborious drives now reaches the elemental limits of quantum mechanics because of the measurement of the Bit. It can’t get any smaller, from right now’s perspective,” says Torben Jasper-Tönnies, doctoral researcher in Professor Richard Berndt’s working group at Kiel College’s Institute of Experimental and Utilized Physics. He and his colleagues used a single molecule, which may very well be employed to encode a Bit, to reveal a precept which could simply allow even smaller laborious drives with extra storage sooner or later. “Our molecule is only one sq. nanometer in measurement. Even with this alone, a bit may very well be encoded in an space hundred instances smaller than what’s these days required,” says his colleague, Dr Manuel Gruber. This is able to be one other step in the direction of shifting the boundaries of quantum physics in storage know-how.

The Fe(III) spin crossover molecule used within the experiment underneath the STM, with a mannequin of its construction positioned on high.
Determine/Copyright: Manuel Gruber

When Bits turn into Trits

The molecule which the interdisciplinary analysis group from the Kiel Collaborative Analysis Centre (CRC) 677 “Perform by Switching” makes use of cannot solely assume two totally different magnetic states, however when connected to a particular floor, it may possibly additionally change its connection to the floor. It may well then be switched between a excessive and low magnetic state, and turned by 45 levels. “When transferred onto storage know-how, we’d have the ability to depict info on three states – these being 0, 1 and a pair of,” defined Jasper-Tönnies. “As a storage unit, we wouldn’t have a Bit, we’d have a Trit. Binary code would turn into trinary code.”

The problem for the researchers from Chemistry and Physics was find a appropriate molecule and a appropriate floor, in addition to utilizing the proper methodology to attach the 2 collectively in a approach that will nonetheless enable them to work. “Magnetic molecules, so-called spin-crossover molecules, are very delicate and simply broken. We would have liked to search out a technique to firmly connect the molecule to the floor with out affecting its switching potential,” defined Gruber.

The tip of the STM (yellow) assumes the position of a laborious drive’s studying and writing head for the molecule connected to the copper nitride floor (black).
Determine/Copyright: Manuel Gruber

Good mixture of molecule and floor

Their experiments lastly paid off: Chemists from Professor Felix Tuczek’s working group on the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry synthesized a magnetic molecule of a particular class (a so-called Fe(III) spin crossover molecule). Physicists Jasper-Tönnies, Gruber and Sujoy Karan had been in a position to deposit this molecule on a copper nitride floor by the use of evaporation. Utilizing electrical energy, it may be switched between totally different spin states, and likewise between two totally different instructions (within the so-called low-spin state). The high quality tip of a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) acts as a laborious drive’s studying and writing head of their experiments. This piece of kit permits the molecule to not solely be “written” as a storage medium, but additionally to be “learn” utilizing electrical energy.

Earlier than these molecules can be utilized as a knowledge storage on an industrial stage additional investigation have to be carried on. Certainly, the proof of precept is demonstrated utilizing a moderately voluminous setup (STM) and additional work is required to combine such a molecular reminiscence on a small chip.


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