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Researchers Develop High Precision Method to Control Nanoparticles for Digital Applications

Researchers Develop High Precision Method to Control Nanoparticles for Digital Applications

by Giulio PriscoAugust 18, 2015

Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a high precision method to control colloidal nanoparticles – tiny particles suspended in a solution. The technology could have important applications in digital electronics and displays.

The research is published in Nature Communications with the title “Information storage and retrieval in a single levitating colloidal particle.”

“We present a generic methodology for precise and parallel spatiotemporal control of nanometre-scale matter in a fluid, and demonstrate the ability to attain digital functionalities such as switching, gating and data storage in a single colloid, with further implications for signal amplification and logic operations,” note the researchers. “This fluid-phase bit can be arrayed at high densities, manipulated by either electrical or optical fields, supports low-energy, high-speed operation and marks a first step toward ‘colloidal information’.”

Ultra-High Performance Storage Media and Displays

SolutionThe scientists, led by Madhavi Krishnan, Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Zurich, achieved controlled spatial manipulation of matter on the nanometer scale. The researchers demonstrated that it is not only possible to spatially confine nanoparticles, but also to control their position and orientation in time. It’s important to note that the method works without requiring physical contact with the nanoparticles, which remain embedded in a liquid solution.

“Manipulation is made possible by the interaction with electrical and optical fields,” said Krishnan.

The scientists were able to organize the colloidal nanoparticles with the utmost precision and then to manipulate their motion. This new approach, which permits fast operations at room temperature, could permit developing new materials and devices, including future data storage media or displays with unprecedentedly high resolution.

In the image below, a nanorod is switched between two states – bright (high signal) and dark (low signal) by an external electrical pulse (red trace). The state of the rod can be readout instantaneously at any time using polarized light. The rod stores the most recently written state until the arrival of the next write pulse.


The nanoparticles can be rapidly displaced with low power, and used to store large volumes of data. Therefore, the new technology is suitable for both data storage applications and high-resolution displays.

“Nanoparticles possess properties that are very useful for digital technologies, and each individual particle can now be used to store and retrieve data,” said Krishnan.

This makes possible displays along the lines of the Kindle reader with a pixel size that is thousand-times smaller and a much faster response time.

Images from University of Zurich and Public Domain Images.

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