Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have become ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists of using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. To do so, they have to be placed on surfaces without damaging their ability to save the information.

A research team from Kiel University has now not only successfully placed a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface, they have also used interactions which were previously regarded as obstructive to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than 100-fold, and data carriers could be made significantly smaller. The scientists have published their findings in Nano Letters.

The differentiation between two possibilities is the smallest piece of information that a computer can save. bits, as the smallest electronic storage unit, are the basic building blocks for all information stored on hard drives. They are presented as a sequence of zeroes and ones. Over the past few years, storage media have become ever smaller while their capacity to store information has increased. One bit on a hard drive now only requires a space of around 10 by 10 nanometres. This is still too big for miniaturising components, however.

Image Credit:  Manuel Gruber

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