There's a challenge facing electronics engineers attempting to build magnetic memory that can store data for more than 10 years or so. The density at which this data is stored depends on the size of the magnetic grains used for this process. Engineers have known for some time that they just can't continue to make these grains indefinitely smaller.
But today, Ruijuan Xiao at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research, in Dresden, Germany, and a few buddies have worked out how to solve the problem. And get this: their fix doesn't just tweak the density of magnetic data storage. They reckon that they can get an improvement of three orders of magnitude.
What Xiao and co have found is a way to trick cobalt dimers into thinking that they're in a hexagonal close packed structure. Their idea is to attach the dimers to a hexagonal carbon ring such as benzene or graphene. In this scenario, one of the pair of cobalt atoms bonds with the carbon ring, and the magnetic field between the cobalt atoms can be switched by applying a weak magnetic field and a strong electric field.
If they're right, carbon ring storage should allow engineers to access this extraordinary stability, and that could lead to fantastically long-lived memory.