Using individual molecules instead of electronic or magnetic memory cells would revolutionise data storage technology, as molecular memories could be thousand-fold smaller. Scientists of Kiel University took a big step towards developing such molecular data storage. They succeeded in selectively switching on and off the magnetism of individual molecules, so-called spin-crossover complexes, by electrons. The interdisciplinary study is part of the Collaborative Research Centre 677 “Functions by Switching”, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The results prove that it is technically possible to store information using molecules.
“In principle information may be stored in a single molecule. However, techniques that would make such an approach feasible are becoming available just now”, explains project leader Professor Richard Berndt of the Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics at Kiel University. Since the 1980s scientists are able to image individual molecules on surfaces with scanning tunnelling microscopes, he continues. Current research aims at controlling the characteristics of single molecules in order to facilitate future technical applications. The Collaborative Research Centre 677 “Functions by Switching” at Kiel University is a large-scale project engaged in such investigations, which aim at constructing molecular machines.