Big grant for studying very small magnets – University of Copenhagen

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08 December 2010

Big grant for studying very small magnets

The biggest breakthrough for information technology will come when we figure out how to read information stored on memory devices of a molecular nature. Now a researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Department of Chemistry, has been awarded a grant to figure out how to get information out of molecular magnets.

By Jes Andersen

Stergios Piligkos hopes to retrieve information from single molecule magnets

Millions for miniaturizing 

Stergios Piligkos receives an 8.6 million DKK Sapere Aude grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research. Sapere Aude means "dare to know". And when it comes to knowing Doctor Piligkos is quite daring.
Normal memory storage systems also use magnetic storage. But in order to store just one of the zeros or ones making up a binary bit you need to magnetize one billion atoms. Recent research has shown that it is possible to create magnets consisting of single molecules built by a few metal atoms.

 Piligkos in his Copenhagen lab

A simple dream of single molecules 

Single molecule magnets open the possibility of exploiting macroscopic quantum phenomena that operate at the molecular scale. And it allows for a drastic reduction in size of the devices.
But there is still a hurdle. No one knows how to get the information back out. And Piligkos laughs hugely when asked what his dream is.

"I "just" want to address and manipulate information stored on a single molecule. And perform computing operations on it".

An electronic revolution

Dr Piligkos is well aware that realizing his simple dream would revolutionize all information technology. But he has established a considerable expertise in spectroscopic characterization and theoretical interpretation of single molecule magnets.

Attracting a star to Copenhagen

With the funding by Sapere Aude Piligkos hopes to build a team which can also synthesise the molecules. For this he plans to hire a PhD and a postdoc and to regularly invite Dr. Euan K. Brechin; one of Europe's leading scientists in the field, to Copenhagen. As he says with some understatement: "I think it will be good for our students to learn from a capacity like Dr Brechin".
Stergios Piligkos is originally from Greece and has lived in Copenhagen for five years. He initially held a Marie Curie grant and later a Steno grant at the University of Copenhagen.