Tomorrow's data storage: Exploring molecular magnets in slow motion

April 01, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Tomorrow's data storage: Exploring molecular magnets in slow motion
In data storage, conventional techniques are approaching their physical limits. So-called molecular magnets could provide a remedy. Research teams from Kaiserslautern and Karlsruhe (both Germany) are investigating the storage properties of these materials. The focus is on metals within molecules, which are responsible for the magnetic properties and thus for storage. The teams have now succeeded for the first time in investigating these metals in greater detail.

Whether hard disks, memory chips or sensors - it is magnets that make it possible to store data. The basis for this is the spin of electrons. With a new type of magnet, the molecular magnet, it could be possible in the future to store considerably more data.

These "molecular" magnets consist of a metal center that is connected to so-called organic ligands and thus forms a molecule, says Lena Scherthan from the Technical University of Kaiserslautern (TUK), first author of the current study. "Only certain metals are suitable for this type of molecule. These include iron, for example, but also less well-known chemical elements from the lanthanide group, such as the dysprosium with which the TUK team works. These materials are also known as rare earths. The special thing about them: Their electrons can generate a relatively strong magnetic moment. The Kaiserslautern research team and the research group led by chemist Professor Annie K. Powell from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are investigating the storage capacity and how it can be improved.

For the first time, Mössbauer spectroscopy has been used to investigate a molecular magnet with dysprosium as its metal centre. The experiments were carried out at extremely low temperatures of -269 degrees Celsius in liquid helium. Such low temperatures are necessary because many of the molecular magnets only have their characteristic properties under these conditions.

The spectroscopy technique allows a more detailed view into the atomic cosmos. This enables researchers to draw conclusions about the interactions between metal nuclei and ligands. "We look at the properties of the metal center in a similar way to slow motion," says the scientist, comparing the method she presents with her fellow researchers in her current study. "We see more than with conventional methods. For example, we see how quickly the system returns to its original state and how long the molecule's storage time is.

The goal of the Kaiserslautern

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