Chemists exploring new material with 'next generation' computer hard drive possibilities

Chemists exploring new material with 'next generation' computer hard drive possibilities

An attempt to uncover the 'holy grail' of a lossless energy source has inadvertently led to a study which could result in the next generation of high-speed, mass storage hard drives.

Chemists at the University of Aberdeen were examining a new compound to explore whether it could be a ‘superconductor’ – a material that has no electrical resistance – when they realised it had a completely different potential.

“Lots of research is being done at the moment into spintronic materials for smaller, faster, cheaper and more efficient computing applications,” explains Dr Abbie McLaughlin, a chemistry senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen.

“Originally, we were looking at a manganese oxyarsenide material to explore whether or not it could be a potential superconductor.

“Superconductors that work at room temperature are something of a ‘holy grail’. Most metals have resistance, so when you’re transporting electricity in overhead transmission lines on pylons, for example, you lose a lot of that to heat as a result of the resistance – so it’s not very efficient.

“A superconductor doesn’t have this, so it’s a much greener way of transporting electricity. If we could discover a superconducting material that works at room temperature it would transform our world and could also lead to highly efficient electric cars or supercomputers beyond anything that exists at the moment.

“Scientists have been concentrating on materials containing planes of copper and oxygen (cuprates) as these materials exhibit superconductivity at the highest temperatures (known as high temperature superconductivity). However so far it has not been possible to observe superconductivity above 139 Kelvin (-134 °C). This all changed 5 years ago when a new set of iron arsenide materials were also shown to exhibit high temperature superconductivity. This caused much excitement worldwide because if there’s a whole new set of materials out there then it’s still possible the room temperature superconductor could be achieved.

“We switched the iron for manganese to see how the properties changed. It didn’t show superconductivity but it did show another exciting property - Colossal Magneto Resistance.”

The information stored on computer hard drives is currently read using magnetic sensors which display an effect called giant magnetoresistance. Such magnetic sensors exhibit a reduction in resistance by up to 50 % upon applying a small magnetic field. The introduction of giant magnetoresistant sensors enabled a thousand fold improvement in the storage capacity of disk drives.

In the 1990s materials called manganese oxides were discovered which display ‘Colossal Magneto Resistance’. These materials showed reductions in resistance by up to 99.9% in field, are up to 1,000 times more powerful than current devices and could trigger a revolution in computing technology. However these materials required a large magnet (around the size of a small table) to work. As such, these superfast, hard drives have not yet come to fruition.

Dr McLaughlin discovered that the manganese arsenide she had been investigating also show Colossal Magneto Resistance.

 “We’re hoping we can manipulate the chemistry and somehow develop a material that will show this Colossal Magneto Resistance in low fields, using smaller magnets. At the moment we only see colossal magnetoresistance at a really low temperature, so the grant is about seeing if we can make other compounds with similar structures that will work at higher temps. So we’re tinkering with the chemistry and seeing if there’s anything we can do to raise the temperature.

“New materials like this with new mechanisms of colossal magnetoresistance mean there’s a renewed interest in this field. Even if we can’t get it to work at high temperatures, the fundamental mechanism could maybe be applied to something else.

Dr McLaughlin’s work has been supported by a £300,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Search News

Browse by Month

2024

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2024
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2024
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2024
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2024
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2024

2023

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2023
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2022

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2022
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2022
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2022
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2021

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2021
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2021
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2021
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2021
  10. Oct
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2021
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2021

2020

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2020
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2020
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2020
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2020
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2020

2019

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2019
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2019
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2019
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2019
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2019

2018

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2018
  2. Feb
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2018
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2018
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2018
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2018
  7. Jul
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2018
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2018
  10. Oct
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2018
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2018

2017

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2017
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2017
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2017
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2017
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2017
  6. Jun
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2017
  8. Aug
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2017
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2017
  11. Nov
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2017

2016

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2016
  10. Oct
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2016
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2016

2015

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2015
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2014

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2014
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2014
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2014
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2014
  12. Dec

2013

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2013
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2013
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2013
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2013
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2013
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2013
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2012

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2012
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2012
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2012
  12. Dec

2011

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2011
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2011
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2011
  6. Jun
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2011
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2010

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2010
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2010
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2010
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2010
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2010
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2010
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2010
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2010
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2010
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2010
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2009

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2009
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2009
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2009
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2009
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2009
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2009
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2009
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2009
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2009
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2009
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2009

2008

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2008
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2008
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2008
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2008
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2008
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2008
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2008
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2008
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2008
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2008
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2008