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Future memory
Date:8/22/2012

A new class of organic materials developed at Northwestern University boasts a very attractive but elusive property: ferroelectricity. The crystalline materials also have a great memory, which could be very useful in computer and cellphone memory applications, including cloud computing.

A team of organic chemists discovered they could create very long crystals with desirable properties using just two small organic molecules that are extremely attracted to each other. The attraction between the two molecules causes them to self assemble into an ordered network -- order that is needed for a material to be ferroelectric.

The starting compounds are simple and inexpensive, making the lightweight materials scalable and very promising for technology applications. In contrast, conventional ferroelectric materials -- special varieties of polymers and ceramics -- are complex and expensive to produce. The Northwestern materials can be made quickly and are very versatile.

In addition to computer memory, the discovery of the Northwestern materials could potentially improve sensing devices, solar energy systems and nanoelectronics. The study will be published Aug. 23 by the journal Nature.

"This work will serve as a guide for designing these materials and using ferroelectricity in new ways," said Samuel I. Stupp, Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and Medicine. He is a senior author of the paper. "Our molecular design enables us to invent a nearly infinite library of ferroelectric materials."

Ferroelectric materials exhibit spontaneous electric polarization (making one side of the material positive and the opposite side negative) that can be reversed by the application of an electric field (from a battery, for example). These two possible orientations make the materials attractive to researchers developing computer memory because one orientation could correspond to a 1 and the ot
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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