New Data Storage Material DiscoveredCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: June 14, 2012 11:01AM
The better we learn to study materials, the more truly weird materials we discover. Some materials have what is called a metal-insulator transition which is like a phase transition combined with a semiconductor. Above a certain temperature the material is a metal (conductor) and below that temperature it is an insulator. Some semiconductors that are used in modern technology have these transitions, but we may eventually see one specific material being used to store data.
First discovered thirty years ago, Cd2Os2O7 not only undergoes a metal-insulator transition but a magnetic transition as well, at 227 K. At and below this temperature the electrons in the material will spontaneously align, making it magnetic. Researchers at RIKEN have found that the electrons of the osmium atoms always align in one of two directions, and these two directions could potentially be assigned meanings of 0 and 1 for data storage. Thanks to how the data is stored in the compound's structure, it will actually be very resilient to external magnetic fields.
What may end up being the most important aspect of this research though is not the data storage potential, but the future studies into condensed matter physics. Scientists are still working to fully understand how electron spin influences a material's ability to carry electrons. As the material's magnetic properties and conductive state both can change, it is a prime candidate for research into how these characteristics are linked.