Recent progress in making single-molecule magnets (SMMs) that are magnetic at high temperatures was recently discussed in an article in Chemistry World. Dr Olof Johansson discussed the work his group and collaborators have done towards controlling the magnetisation of SMMs using ultrashort laser pulses. Part of the work was done in collaboration with Professor Euan Brechin, building on previous research from his group. This technology could one day be used to read and write data much faster than what current technology can do.
Their size (typically smaller than a nanometre) means they have the potential to be one of the smallest possible magnetic storage elements. This would significantly increase the storage density in hard drives, which is an urgent problem given how important Big Data and The Internet of Things have become. There are many problems that need to be solved before SMMs can actually be used in data storage, but the recent progress in making SMMs that are magnetic at liquid nitrogen temperatures is promising.
We do not yet know if we will ever be able to achieve the dream of using ultrashort laser pulses to control SMM in hard drives. This is because there are so many unanswered questions, spanning both chemistry and physics, but that makes this field such an exciting research area! We are currently exploring different measurement techniques and collaborate with a whole range of researchers from chemistry to condensed matter physics. There is a lot happening in this field right now, so the next couple of years are going to be very exciting.