Everyday humanity generates about 2.5 exabytes of data, or 2.5 million terabytes, and there is no reason to believe that is going to decrease in the near future. That is why researchers across the globe are searching for ways to increase storage capacities and densities. One promising technology is molecular memory, which stores data within individual molecules, and a team of researchers led by MIT have made an important discovery that could drastically increase its potential.
Typical molecular memory units use two magnetic electrodes with layers of organic molecules between them. Changing the orientation of the electrodes' magnetic fields with the molecules affects the conductance of the system, which is what stores a bit of data. What the researchers have discovered is a molecule that does not require the second magnetic electrode. In fact, the memory would be disrupted if the second electrode were magnetic. This new molecule resembles a fragment of graphene, but has a zinc atom attached as well, which is important as that allows the molecules to align with each other.
While removing the second magnetic electrode is important, the new molecule offers more than that. It is able to store data at room temperature, only requires two layers to store data instead of the usual five or six, and those two layers are able to align themselves, instead of needing costly external help. This is only a proof-of-concept though as the change in conductance is likely not enough to make it commercially viable, but better molecules can be designed.