New Material Stores Data on the Atomic Scale

Ultra-high density data storage material contains single molecule magnets.

Researchers at Clarkson University have discovered a material able to produce a single molecule magnet. The material is claimed to have significant potential for ultra-high density data storage.

Prototypical single-molecule magnet. Image courtesy of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Prototypical single-molecule magnet. Image courtesy of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Data density has seen significant improvements in the past few decades. However, Mario Wriedt, assistant professor at Clarkson University believes this cannot continue forever with current technology.

Wriedt notes that a limit exists for how small a magnetic domain can be before it is impossible for a computer to read or write data on the hard drive.

“Due to physical limitations, we can’t make these domains smaller than 100 to 200 nanometers because they would lose their magnetic properties,” clarified Wriedt.

However, Wriedt and his team have created a metal-organic nanostructuration technique that can arrange and protect single-molecule magnets, which behave like traditional magnets but on a vastly smaller scale.

“A single-molecule magnet can be as small as 1.5 nanometers,” said Wriedt. “However, a metal-organic framework is needed to arrange and protect them in a controlled nanostructure, making them usable for real world applications.”

This metal-organic framework will be able to insulate and stabilise the magnets in a densely packed storage unit. The next step is to look into the structure properties of the framework and its relationships with the single-molecule magnets it protects.

Though not yet ready for prime-time, this material is a proof-of-concept that our next generation of data storage can become fantastically small.

Imagine having all the webpages a user follows stored on their phone with zettabytes (1021) of room to spare. Everything they follow could be updated using burst transmissions as opposed to streams of data connections. Think of how much bandwidth could be saved.

Today, someone can access the Library of Congress from their phone through the Internet. Tomorrow, will their phone contain the Library of Congress?

To learn more about the potential of this material read the 2015 issue of the Journal of American Chemical Society’s article, Metal–Organic Frameworks as Platforms for the Controlled Nanostructuring of Single-Molecule Magnets.

What could be the future of data storage? Will we be working on the quantum or molecular level? How will such large memory affect the current incarnation of the Internet? Comment below.

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.