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Ultrahigh Density Data Storage Could Get Faster and Easier to Produce

Data storage density has doubled every three years since magnetic storage was first developed in the mid-1950s. Key technological innovations along the way such as giant magneto resistance (GMR), perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) and heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) have fueled that enormous growth in capacity. Despite this continually increasing storage density, there is a growing sense that this upward trend is beginning to lose steam.

Now researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB) have developed a new technique with a new kind of material that could move magnetic storage technology beyond the current state-of-the-art HAMR technology and lead to faster and more energy efficient ultrahigh density data storage.

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DNA Structures Coordinate Nanoparticle Self-Assembly

The aim of nanoparticle self-assembly research has been to get the particles to organize themselves into structures arrangment is largely controlled by us. However, the level of control we have sought has sometimes left a little bit to be desired.

Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE’s) Brookhaven National Laboratory have demonstrated that polyhedral structures made from DNA can serve as a framework for ensuring that the nanoparticles self-assemble in the exact arrangement their minders intended.  In these DNA structures, the nanoparticles can be assembled into crystalline and open 3-D frameworks that themselves can be interconnected, making possible a wide variety of different structures.

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On-Chip Supercapacitors Dump Carbon in Favor of Silicon

Tiny supercapacitors that can fit right on a chip have been hotly pursued for at least the last half decade. We’ve seen the usual suspects—graphene, titanium carbide and porous carbon—proposed for making the electrode material for these on-chip supercapacitors.

Now researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have turned to an unlikely material for producing these pint-sized energy storage devices: porous silicon.  What have the researchers done to turn this notoriously weak electrode material into a powerhouse? They have found that topcoating it with a nanometer-thick layer of titanium nitride makes all the difference.

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Serving as guides to the eye, the inner dashed triangles in the image depict the graphitic nitrogen nearest neighbors and the corners of the outer triangles are terminated at the locations of the enhanced electron density among second and third nearest

Now Graphene Can Have a Tunable, Stable Bandgap

The knock against using graphene in digital electronics has been that it lacks an inherent band gap. However, over the years there have been a number of approaches that have been able to engineer a band gap into the material.

One of the most promising methods has been nitrogen doping, which actually increases the material’s conductivity rather than reduces it.

Now researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have developed a new technique for nitrogen doping of graphene that can control exactly where the dopants are placed in the graphene lattice. This precise localizing of the dopants reduces defects and provides greater material stability.

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Breaking Up Comes With Some Unexpected Benefits

In polymer manufacturing, a technique known as cold drawing is used to imbue polyester and nylon fibers with high tensile strength. It involves pulling the fiber so that its diameter is reduced and the polymer chains are aligned. Nobody ever really considered doing this with composite materials because no one imagined that it would lead to anything useful.

But researchers at the University of Central Florida (UCF), in Orlando, believed that seeing what would happen was worth an experiment. In a paper published in the journal Nature, the researchers recall that what they discovered was not at all what they were expecting. And the result could change nanomanufacturing by enabling the production of new kinds of materials.

The unexpected development, said Ayman Abouraddy, an associate professor and co-author of the research, in a press release: 

While we thought [that when they performed the cold drawing on the composite fiber, which consisted of a brittle core and ductile outer coating] the core material would snap into two large pieces, instead it broke into many equal-sized pieces.

Though a surprise to Abouraddy, Robert S. Hoy, a University of South Florida physicist who specializes in the properties of materials like glass and plastic, wasn’t shocked by the UCF professor’s the initial findings. Hoy recognized this behavior as something familiar to those in the polymer business—a phenomenon called “necking,” which occurs when cold drawing causes non-uniform strain in a material.

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Brighter Displays Come From the Wings of a Butterfly

Biomimetics, in which nature serves as a model for devising technologies, has been a key inspiration for scientists working in nanotechnology. For instance, we’ve seen researchers mimic the bioluminescent light of fireflies for improved organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). But one of the favorite insects for nanotech researchers is the butterfly. By attempting to duplicate the wing structures of butterflies, researchers have come up with an anti-counterfeiting technique and inexpensive infrared detectors.

Now researchers at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia have again turned to the wings of a butterfly—this time, to help develop nanostructures that could lead to more compact light-based electronics that would yield brighter displays.

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Molecules that alight on a surface used to test nanocars look more like obstacles, according to researchers at Rice University and North Carolina State University testing the mobility of single-molecule cars in open air.

It's a Bumpy Ride for Nanocars in Air

So-called “nanocars” have been a fixture on the nanotechnology landscape for at least the last decade.  And, no, these will not be cars that we humans will be shrunk down to fit into like in the sixties sci-fi movie “Fantastic Voyage.”  Instead nanocars are molecular-scale devices that can be directed to move around with light or other means and ferry around payloads not unlike the way a macroscale vehicle might.

Now researchers at Rice University, who developed the first nanocars, have teamed up with researchers at North Carolina State University to make it possible for nanocars to move around in ambient environments instead of being restricted to vacuums.

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Diamond-based Semiconductors Take a Step Foward

Is the potential of diamond as a semiconductor now being realized? That’s certainly the case if we believe the praise being heaped upon the precious stone by companies such as AKHAN Semiconductor. AKHAN has pronounced that we are now in the “Diamond Age” of semiconductors.

Why? The superior thermal properties of diamonds, compared with those of silicon, are attracting increased attention. Unfortunately, doping diamond-based devices has proven exceptionally difficult, especially when it comes to producing n-type semiconductors. 

Now, in joint research between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas at Arlington, scientists have developed a new method for doping single crystals of diamond; it could help diamond realize its full potential as a semiconductor.

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Nanoclast

IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

 
Editor
Dexter Johnson
Madrid, Spain
 
Contributor
Rachel Courtland
Associate Editor, IEEE Spectrum
New York, NY
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