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Commencement 2008: Student innovation could improve data storage, magnetic sensors
Date:5/14/2008

Troy, N.Y. Paul Morrow, who will graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on May 17, has come a long way from his days as an elementary school student, pulling apart his mothers cassette player. The talented young physicist has developed two innovations that could vastly improve magnetic data storage and sense extremely low level magnetic fields in everything from ink on counterfeit currency to tissue in the human brain and heart.

First, Morrow developed a nanomaterial that has never before been produced. The nanomaterial is an array of freestanding nanoscale columns composed of alternating layers of magnetic cobalt and non-magnetic copper. Morrows three-dimensional arrangement of the magnetic and non-magnetic layers creates a material that exhibits promising magnetic properties for data storage and magnetic field sensing at room temperature. Similar technology is currently in use in hard drives around the world, but they both use a two-dimensional film design for the layers.

Because the nanostructure is three-dimensional, it has the potential to vastly expand data storage capability, Morrow said. A disk with increased data storage density would reduce the size, cost, and power consumption of any electronic device that uses a magnetic hard drive, and a read head sensor based on a small number of these nanocolumns has promise for increasing spatial sensitivity, so that bits that are more closely spaced on the disk can be read. This same concept can be applied to other areas where magnetic sensors are used, such as industrial or medical applications.

Morrow has also developed a microscopic technique to measure the minute magnetic properties of his nanocolumns. Prior to his innovation, no such method existed that was fine-tuned enough to sense the magnetic properties of one or even a small number of freestanding nanostructures.

The technique uses a specialized scanning tunneling microscope (STM) that Morrow built tha
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Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
demarg@rpi.edu
518-276-6542
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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