School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

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Laser-activated magnets could enable cloud computing systems to process data up to 100 times faster than current technologies.

Data storage plays a key role in today’s society and is expected to consume 20% of the world’s energy production by 2025. Indeed, data storage servers are already emitting as much carbon dioxide as the whole aviation industry.

To combat this, chemists at Newcastle and Edinburgh Universities have shown that new magnetic material known as a single-molecule magnet can be controlled by shining very short pulses from a laser on it. This could boost the storage capacity and processing speed of hard drives used in cloud-based servers.  The compound is composed mainly of the element manganese, which is named after the Latin word magnes, which means magnet. 

The team’s findings suggest that data could be stored and accessed on the magnets using laser pulses lasting one millionth of a billionth of a second. They estimate this could enable hard drives fitted with the magnets to process data up to 100 times faster than current technologies.

Existing hard drives store data using a magnetic field generated by passing an electric current through a wire, which generates a lot of heat, researchers say.  Replacing this with a laser-activated mechanism would be more energy efficient as it does not produce heat. 

The study, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, was funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Carnegie Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Journal Paper

818 x 428 Laser Activated Magnets

published on: 6 March 2020