New Uranium Compound Could Lead to Atomic Hard Drives
A new compound could lead to a breakthrough in the search for high performance computing techniques. Steve Liddle, an expert in molecular depleted uranium chemistry, has created a new molecule containing two Uranium atoms which, if kept at a very low temperature, will maintain its magnetism. This type of single-molecule magnet (SMM) has the potential to increase data storage capacity by many hundreds, even thousands of times — as a result huge volumes of data could be stored in tiny places.
Liddle, a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Reader in the University of Nottingham’s School of Chemistry, has received numerous accolades for his ground-breaking research. His latest discovery has been published in the journal Nature Chemistry.
Liddle said: “This work is exciting because it suggests a new way of generating SMM behavior and it shines a light on poorly understood uranium phenomena. It could help point the way to making scientific advances with more technologically amenable metals, such as the lanthanides. The challenge now is to see if we can build bigger clusters to improve the blocking temperatures and apply this more generally.
Computer hard discs are made up of magnetic material which record digital signals. The smaller you can make these tiny magnets, the more information you can store.
Although it may have somewhat negative PR, it seems depleted Uranium — a by-product from uranium enrichment and of no use in nuclear applications because the radioactive component has been removed — could now hold some of the key to their research. Liddle has shown that, by linking more than one uranium atom together via a bridging toluene molecule, SMM behavior is exhibited.
He said: “At this stage it is too early to say where this research might lead, but single-molecule magnets have been the subject of intense study because of their potential applications to make a step change in data storage capacity and realize high performance computing techniques such as quantum information processing and spintronics.”
Liddle said: “The inherent properties of uranium place it between popularly researched transition and lanthanide metals, and this means it has the best of both worlds. It is, therefore, an attractive candidate for SMM chemistry, but this has never been realized in polymetallic systems, which is necessary to make them work at room temperature.”
Liddle’s work has attracted international interest. He recently won a prestigious €1m European Research Council Grant to study speculative and ground-breaking research into molecular depleted uranium chemistry. His research already has been highlighted in the media by Chemistry World, Chemical and Engineering News, Chemistry in Australia, and The Sunday Times Magazine. Liddle has obtained several previous grants related to this work, including from the EPSRC and the Royal Society, and he was invited to speak at the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies in 2010.
Liddle is also a regular contributor to the School of Chemistry’s award-winning Periodic Table of Videos — www.periodicvideos.com. The Web site, created by Brady Haran, the University’s film maker in residence, won the 2008 IChemE Petronas Award for excellence in education and training.
You can see a video about Liddle’s latest discovery by going to: http://www.periodicvideos.com/videos/mv_magnetic_uranium.htm