Kim Kardashian, Single-Molecular Magnets, and the Future of Molecular Data Storage

Single-molecular magnets have now reached blocking temperatures closer to room temperature which spells a 1000-fold increase in current data storage capacity.

Data Storage

Back in 2016, Queen of Selfies, snake emoji trailblazer, and breaker of Internet Kim Kardashian made headlines when she took 6,000 selfies during her four day trip to Mexico.

So, with dysprosocenium-based single-molecular magnets setting a new temperature record that makes quantum information processing and higher density data storage at a molecular level a possibility in the coming years, one must wonder: What would Kim Kardashian do?

The Road to 294.15 K

It wasn’t that long ago when George Christou, a chemistry professor at the University of Florida and one of the pioneers in the study of single-molecule magnets, aimed at raising their blocking temperature (or the temperature at which magnetic information is lost) to -268 °C or 5 K.

Seven years later, in 2011 to be exact, a group of scientists from the  University of California, managed to reach blocking temperatures of -259 °C or 14.15 K using a terbium compound which was considered as the hardest molecular magnet at that time.

Now, scientists at the University of Manchester, led by Dr. David Mills and Dr. Nicholas Chilton from the School of Chemistry, recently published a study showing SMMs using the lanthanide element dysprosocenium reach blocking temperatures as high as -213.15 °C or 60 K.

This means that individual molecules of SMMs – which were previously thought to lose their magnetic memory once temperature hits -269 °C or 4.15 K – doesn’t lose its magnetization even at higher temperatures.

While going from 4 K to 60 K is a great improvement, the ultimate goal for scientists researching SMMs is to create one that works at 294.15 K – or at room temperature.

Keeping Up with the Digital Universe

According to research conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the digital universe or the amount of data we create and copy every year, will reach 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020.

If this were the 1980s, where a 1 gigabyte hard drive was the size of a fridge and weighted a massive 550 pounds, just imagine how large the physical space of 44 trillion refrigerators will take up.

Today, single-molecule magnets can store 25,000 gigabytes of data in 1 square inch area or the size of a postage stamp. In theory, as SMMs develop, it’s predicted to increase areal density of data storage by as much as 1000 times in the same 1 square inch area.

So, if an iPhone 7 has the maximum storage capacity of 256 gigabyte, a 1 square inch SMM is the equivalent of around 98 iPhone 7s.

And because of their tiny size, SMMs also have the potential to function as a quantum bit or qubit,  which is what quantum computers use to express their basic unit of information.

While a bit in classical computing can only be a 1 or a 0, a qubit can be both simultaneously. So, if a quantum computer has 50 qubits, a classical computer would need about 10 quadrillion bits to match it. This means, that not only can qubits store far more information than conventional computers, they also have far superior computing powers.

Although quantum computing is still at its early stages and the role single-molecule magnets would play in its progress from lab to real world is still uncertain, scientists already predict that it has the power to create new medicine, advance cryptography techniques, and even change the universe.

But, if it was up to Kim Kardashian quantum computers, with their enormous storage capacity and dizzyingly fast computing speeds, can only be good for one thing – Nude selfies till I die.

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