Basel researchers search for new data storage devices

Basel researchers and their international colleagues are exploring new methods for controlling the physical state of individual molecules within a network. Their work could result in the development of new storage devices.

Graphic animation of a potential data storage device
Graphic animation of a potential data storage device. (Image credit: Departement Physik, Universität Basel)

The research is a collaboration between the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI), the Department of Physics at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland and the Universities of Heidelberg and Linköping. According to a statement from the University of Basel, the objective is to explore new methods that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled, which could lead to the development of new storage devices.

A group of researchers led by Thomas Jung at the University of Basel has succeeded in producing an organometallic network. Under the right conditions, the molecules arrange themselves independently into a regular supramolecular structure. The researchers in Basel have now added individual xenon gas atoms to the holes of the network, which are only one nanometer in size. Their physical state can be changed by means of temperature changes. Using a microscope sensor, the sensors were able to regulate the physical state of the atoms in the individual pores.

As the experiments can only be carried out at temperatures of below -260 degree Celsius, xenon atoms themselves cannot be used to create new data storage devices. However, the researchers will “now test larger molecules as well as short-chain alcohols,” explained Jung. “These change state at higher temperatures, which means that it may be possible to make use of them.”

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