Delving into nanoparticles
A British university is the co-ordinating partner in an international project involving information that can be stored on nanoparticles.
The project, entitled Nanospin and led by the University of Leicester, aims to use the novel properties of nanoparticles in the building of new materials and devices.
Looking even further ahead, it looks to functionalise the nanoparticles themselves by making them from more than one element, or as core-shell structures, so that each is able to become a device.
A simple example is a magnetic nanoparticle that can store a single data bit of information by defining the direction of its magnetisation.
The data storage density of modern computer disks is impressive but if it becomes possible to store each data bit on a single nanoparticle, then storage densities 100 times greater could be achieved.
Such a nanoparticle medium could store about two million books, or a large library, on an area the size of a postage stamp.
The Nanospin partnership involves the Universities of Leicester, Reading and Surrey in the UK, and other institutions across Europe.
Chris Binns, Professor of Nanoscience in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, said: "Nanotechnology, that is, the use of structures whose dimensions are on the nanometre scale to build new materials and devices, appears to hold the key to future developments in a wide range of technologies, including materials, science, information technology and healthcare.
"An important aspect of nanotechnology is the recognition that sufficiently small pieces of matter (nanoparticles) have electronic magnetic and optical properties that are different from the bulk material.
"In addition, their properties are size-dependent and so nanoparticles can be considered as new building blocks of matter or ‘giant atoms’, whose properties can be tailored," he added.