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

New approach for 'nanohoops' could energize future devices

October 12, 2015

When Ramesh Jasti began making tiny organic circular structures using carbon atoms, the idea was to improve carbon nanotubes being developed for use in electronics or optical devices. He quickly realized, however, that his ...

The universe's most miraculous molecule

October 9, 2015

It's the second most abundant substance in the universe. It dissolves more materials than any other solvent. It stores incredible amounts of energy. Life as we know it would not be possible without it. And although it covers ...


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.