Supramolecules spin promises for future

December 13, 2012
Supramolecules spin promises for future
An illustration of a nanoball--a particle that could transform computer storage.

(—Microscopic particles that can be made to switch their magnetic state could mean computers of the future will be able to store much more data in much less space. 

A family of supramolecules that possess this "spin crossover" capacity, along with some other interesting attributes, have attracted the attention of Professor Stuart Batten of the School of Chemistry at Monash University. 

The tiny "nanoballs", described in a paper published recently in ChemPlusChem by Professor Batten's research team, are about three-billionths of a metre wide – and extraordinarily versatile.

"The nanoballs are the largest molecules known to show spin crossover, only the second example of these types of molecules showing absorption of hydrogen, and the only materials known to show both these properties as well as the absorption of carbon dioxide," Professor Batten said.

Much of Professor Batten's wider research involves crystal engineering to learn how particular molecules behave, and the creation of based on that knowledge. The significance of his work is underlined by funding grants from the Australian Research Council, including a Future Fellowship and a number of Discovery grants.

His team stumbled across the nanoballs when they were analysing what they thought was a different molecule, using X-ray crystallography at the Australian Synchrotron.

"Once we saw the structure and worked out how it was built, we could make variations of it," Professor Batten said.

The team found that the would absorb hydrogen or , but not methane, so they could possibly be used to separate gases. They were also shown to make certain reactions go faster.

And because the nanoballs can be made to shift , for example in response to changes in light, they have potential use in , which relies on the .

Different magnetic states are used in computers to represent the zeroes and ones the binary system requires.

"If you want to make hard drives that can store more and more information, you need to make the regions storing the information smaller and smaller," Professor Batten said.

Molecular data storage may be a long way from reality. At present spin crossover only occurs at extremely low temperatures – less than minus 220 degrees. But the promise is there.

"Ultimately, if we can coax the molecules to behave at the right sort of temperatures, then we might be storing our ones and zeroes in individual molecules," Professor Batten said.

Explore further: Yeast mimics severity of mutations leading to fatal childhood illness

Related Stories

Researchers switch magnetism of individual molecules

June 14, 2012

Using individual molecules instead of electronic or magnetic memory cells would revolutionise data storage technology, as molecular memories could be thousand-fold smaller. Scientists of Kiel University took a big step towards ...

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

New 'self-healing' gel makes electronics more flexible

November 25, 2015

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a first-of-its-kind self-healing gel that repairs and connects electronic circuits, creating opportunities to advance the ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.