The Blue Dye in the Ink of Your Pen Provides New Development in Both Spin and Molecular Electronics

Giant magnetoresistance achieved with a single molecule could dramatically increase storing and reading memory

2 min read
The Blue Dye in the Ink of Your Pen Provides New Development in Both Spin and Molecular Electronics

In collaborative research between Karlsruhe Institue of Technology (KIT) Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) and the Institut de Physique et Chimie des Matériaux de Strasbourg (IPCMS), scientists have developed what is being dubbed the ‘world’s smallest magnetic field sensor’ by using the organic molecule hydrogen-phtalocyanin, used as the blue dye in pens.

The research, which was initially published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, has drawn together the fields of spin electronics (or, “spintronics”) and molecular electronics by using one organic molecule to generate giant magneto resistance (GMR). As the Nature article terms it, “Giant magnetoresistance through a single molecule.”

It looks as though it could have an immediate impact where the grand daddy of the spintronics revolution—GMR—already holds sway in read heads for hard disk drives but make the reading speed even faster and the data density even greater.

But according to Prof. Wulf Wulfhekel, the lead researcher on the project, in an interview he gave for an article on the research, hard disk drive sensors are just the beginning.

“The use of spin for information encoding has several advantages — it’s non-volatile so you don’t need power to save the state of your machine,” explains Wulfhekel. “If you switch off your computer and switch it back on again, you don’t need to boot up. And also the power consumption is far lower, so this has advantages for mobile devices especially.”

It’s not clear to me, however, whether the researchers see this merely as a breakthrough in the area of hard disk memory or they see it as a move towards some kind of transistor and logic circuit of the future. The article, in which Wulfhekel is quoted, brings up this issue by comparing the scales of this component (one nanometer in diameter) to a carbon nanotube-based transistor that is on the scale of tens of nanometers.

In any case, it seems researchers at KIT have been pursuing molecular electronics rigorously recently with work done “to form a rigid light-emitting device based on single molecules."

While the electro-luminescence research didn’t have a clear application area, this latest research in creating a GMR effect with one molecule seems to be targeting mobile devices.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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