There is not a single day without some breakthrough in nanotechnology. This one comes from Purdue University and says that faster computer memories and higher density data storage could come from affordable self-assembled 'nanorings' made from cobalt.
Purdue chemist Alexander Wei may have come up with a surprisingly simple and cheap solution to the shrinking data storage problem. Wei's research team has found a way to create tiny magnetic rings from particles made of cobalt. The rings are much less than 100 nanometers across –- an important threshold for the size-conscious computer industry – and can store magnetic information at room temperature. Best of all, these "nanorings" form all on their own, a process commonly known as self-assembly.
"The cobalt nanoparticles which form the rings are essentially tiny magnets with a north and south pole, just like the magnets you played with as a kid," said Wei, who is an associate professor of chemistry in Purdue's School of Science. "The nanoparticles link up when they are brought close together. Normally you might expect these to form chains, but under the right conditions, the particles will assemble into rings instead."
Here is a graphic rendering of some cobalt nanoparticles that have self-assembled into nanorings (Images Copyright 2003 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.).
Wei thinks this is a promising development towards nonvolatile memories.
"The fact that cobalt nanoparticles can spontaneously assemble into rings with stable magnetic properties at room temperature is really remarkable," Wei said. "While this discovery will not make nonvolatile computer memory available tomorrow, it could be an important step towards its eventual development. Systems like this could be what the data storage industry is looking for."
The research paper, "Flux Closure in Self-Assembled Cobalt Nanoparticle Rings," was published by the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition (Volume 42, Issue 45 , Pages 5591 - 5593). You can access it here if you're a subscriber or if you want to buy the article.
Sources: Purdue News, December 10, 2003; and various websites