Nanotechnology produces molecular switches that might lead to petabyte electronic memory

Two weeks ago we cited a research effort using metallic nanorods to store a petabyte on an optical disk. Now comes a report that nanotechnology using a molecular-scale switch could enable storing half a petabyte on one square inch. This nanotech advance uses a polyoxometalate (POM) molecular cluster that can be reversibly interconverted between two electronic states. From a news release from the University of Glasgow “Nanotechnology paves way for super iPods” via Nanowerk News:

A breakthrough by scientists from the University of Glasgow could see the storage capacity of an iPod increase 150,000 times.

Nanotechnology researchers have developed a molecule-sized switch which means that data storage can be dramatically increased without the need to increase the size of devices.

Professor Lee Cronin and Dr Malcolm Kadodwala’s work would see 500,000 gigabytes squeezed onto one square inch. The current limit for the space is around 3.3 gigabytes.

…Professor Lee Cronin said: “What we have done is find a way to potentially increase the data storage capabilities in a radical way.

“We have been able to assemble a functional nanocluster that incorporates two electron donating groups, and position them precisely 0.32 nm apart so that they can form a totally new type of molecular switching device.

“This is unprecedented and provides a route to produce new a molecule-based switch that can be easily manipulated using an electric field.

“By taking these nano-scale clusters, just a nanometer in size, and placing them onto a gold or carbon, we can control the switching ability. Not only is this a new type of switchable molecule, but by grafting the molecule on to metal (gold) or carbon means that we can potentially bridge the gap between traditional semiconductor devices and components for nanoscale plastic electronics.

“…This breakthrough shows conceptually that this is possible (showing the bulk effect) but we are yet to solve the fabrication and addressing problems.”

The research was presented in Nature Nanotechnology (abstract).

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