tiny molecules

Trinity breakthrough means a computer hard-disk’s capacity could be increased by 1,000

The discovery could revolutionise computing as we know it.

SCIENTISTS AT TRINITY College Dublin (TCD) have made a breakthrough that could increase computer disk capacity by 1,000-fold.

The groundbreaking research at TCD’s CRANN Institute could lead to lengthy and complex calculations, such as database searches, being performed at incredibly high speeds.

A team lead by Professor Stefano Sanvito has discovered a new way to make molecular magnets more rigid, allowing them to operate at room temperature – something researchers have been trying to do for over 30 years.

Molecular magnets are tiny molecules, often comprising only a handful of atoms, which display the same properties of conventional magnets.

If molecular magnets were to be used in hard-disk drives, there is the potential to increase the disk’s capacity up to a thousand times, so that a standard 3.5’ hard-disk would store more than 1,000,000 gigabytes of data. This is because molecular magnets can be packed together at ultra-high density.

At present, a hypothetical hard-disk made of magnetic molecules will lose all data unless cooled down to about -200 Celsius.

‘Very exciting’ 

Sanvito described the breakthrough as “very exciting”. It has been detailed in a paper published in the Nature Communications journal.

“[It] is of huge interest to the scientific community, who have demonstrated very slow progress to date with the development of molecular magnets that can operate at room temperature. When a magnet is small its magnetic properties degrade rapidly with temperature.

“In this paper, we have shown that a drastic improvement in the high-temperature properties of magnetic magnets can be achieved by engineering the molecules to be as rigid as possible,” Sanvito said.

He added that the discovery offers real potential for very powerful quantum computers, which “may one day revolutionise computation as we know it”.

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