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Old dye as new media storage

Posted on 08/06/2019 | in 杭州夜生活 | by

Prussian blue (PB) is one of the oldest known synthetic chemicals. It is used as a dye in paints and was a key component of blueprints. New research shows that a chemical derivative of PB can be magnetized by hitting it with light, and, more importantly, this magnetization can be turned off with the application of heat. By having two distinct states, a material such as this PB derivative could be used to store data, with the magnetized state equating to a one, and a nonmagnetized state being a zero.HangZhou Night Net

Long-term storage has been one of the most important components throughout the history of modern computing. Modern hard drives have little in common with the earliest versions. The first hard drive was built by IBM in 1956. Used in the IBM 350, it consisted of 50 24-inch diameter plates with 100 recording surfaces, with each surface having 100 tracks. The total amount of memory on these drives was about 5MB; they weighed over a ton and were available for lease from IBM for a meager $3,200 per month. A single modern hard drive can hold on the order of 750GB of data, and is readily available for a few hundred dollars.

Prussian blue, on the other hand is much older, having been developed by the German colormaker Diesbach around 1704 or 1705. When PB was synthesized, Diesbach was actually trying to create a red dye. In the process of trying to create a deep red, he created the deep blue we know today as Prussian blue (fun fact: PB is RGB value [0, 49, 83] and hex triplet #003153), which was the first synthetic dye. It is the structure of PB that makes it interesting to modern science; its chemical formula is Fe7(CN)18(H2O)x, where 14 < x < 16, but it is a chemical derivative of this compound that is piquing the interest of researchers.

A cobalt rubidium Prussian blue derivative compound has been found to be capable of being magnetized by a pulse of light and remaining in this altered state until heated. With this compound having two stable states, it could be perfect for a new form of information storage. It was found that when this material was irradiated with red light, an electron transfer would take place changing the oxidation state of cobalt from +III to +II, and the iron oxidation state from +II to +III. This electron transfer was accompanied by a slight change in the structure of the material. The Co-N-C linkage would change from a bent configuration to a straight configuration; the charge transfer and change in spin on the various molecules allows the material to transition from a nonmagnetic to a magnetic state. The charge transfer—and accompanying structural change—can be undone with the simple addition of heat to the system, returning the material to its starting configuration.

Since one of the two possible states of this material is magnetic, coupled with the fact that this change is easily reversible and stable, it has the potential to be used as a near-perfect analogue to modern binary memory storage devices. While this material holds promise, it is not ready for prime time, or daytime for that matter; the switching process is currently carried out at -150° C. While only a first step, materials of this type could one day be developed to create information storage systems that can store data at the atomic level, allowing far more information to be packed into the same area used in modern components.

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